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POSITIVE, WISE & LOVING LIFE

Want to work on more trust in your relationship? This piece of advice will help you

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Trust is the very essence of a healthy relationship. Without trust, there is no room for true intimacy, love and fulfillment. But how do you build trust?

The sentence ‘The essence of a healthy relationship is trust’ has been said often. We hardly even question what it means anymore. It sounds beautiful and plausible, and no one would want to admit that there’s something off about that foundation of trust in their relationship. Still, it’s not easy to have blind faith in a partner.

The thing is, that it’s all or nothing: you trust someone entirely, or you don’t. You can’t trust your partner a little. That’s why a breach of trust is so hard to repair. If our trust in someone turns out to be unjust, the consequences for the relation –and our peace of mind- are endless. The trust, that was slowly built, has fallen to pieces.

How do we trust, and earn trust, again, even if it was betrayed?

Do you have enough faith in your partner?

You lack faith in your partner if you:

1. Check personal e-mail and texts, search through pockets and handbags
2. Want to know where the other person is at, every hour of the day
3. Keep asking for compliments and confirmation
4. Refuse to talk about a future thing
5. Ask the other person to take care of something and then supervise them, or make an arrangement for just-in-case they fail
6. Give them the benefit of the doubt and draw premature conclusions when there’s a misunderstanding

6 ways to work on mutual trust

1.   Be conscientious about your responsibilities. Don’t allow yourself to take the easy way out

2.   Keep your promises, even if the timing isn’t great or there are risks involved

3.   Be consistent, hold on to your beliefs, don’t be impulsive

4.   Keep secrets, and if you don’t know how to, don’t promise to do so

5.   Be honest. Share how you feel and what you think, without a hidden agenda

6.   Know yourself and the weaknesses you have to be careful for

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: JD Mason

Do you start eating when you feel bad? This is how you stop emotional eating

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You feel bad, and you’re positive: a snack will make you feel better. Or you’re in a great mood, and just want to celebrate it - with a snack. Or you’re sitting on the couch at night, and habitually have... a snack. Do you have eating habits that you would like to get rid of? Good news: you can do it.

There’s a mental circle that you can end up in several times a day. Marjena Moll used to know like the back of her own hand. Every morning, she decided to stick to healthy food for the entire day, and not to have any snacks. But sooner or later – usually later in the day, when she was tired – she always gave in. Right away, she regretted it, and felt ashamed of yet another failure.

You can bear it

Moll, who helps people as an eating coach in the Netherlands, learned to examine her emotions. “I discovered that much of my pain had to do with my judgement about it. Many women judge themselves when they’re feeling miserable or sad. That way, they’re adding insult to injury. They're hurting themselves even more. If you tell yourself: I’m experiencing this feeling now, but I can bear it, you transform pain into power. You’ll spring back much sooner if you don’t resist it.”

Stand by your own side

“It all starts with ending your self-judgement and the fight against yourself. If you get on your own side, you’ll find there’s room for curiosity: when do I overeat, and why? If you start looking at yourself in a loving and curious way, you’ll notice new things. Perhaps you’ll find how convinced you are that ‘there’s no tea without biscuits’. But that’s just a thought. You don’t need snacks to feel good, because everything you need to be fulfilled is in you. The croissant or the cheese with your wine doesn’t define your holiday, your enjoyment comes from within.

Have a break

Some laundry to do, some e-mails to reply to… Most of us want to do a lot in one day. Result: you get tired. These are the times when you don’t stand a chance. “That’s because of how our brain works. Two parts of our brain are related when it comes to our eating behavior. There’s the most advanced part, the prefrontal cortex, and a primitive part. In the most advanced part, we make wise choices: we want to eat healthy food, perhaps lose some weight. 

But when we’re tired, and our ‘reservoir of willpower’ gets empty, the primitive part of the brain takes over. This part doesn’t want to make sensible choices, it wants to give in to the desire to savor, to eat snacks.” To keep your willpower up, you need to have breaks. “If you pause often enough, you’ll see that a six minute break can make you feel like you’re on a holiday – in the middle of your dirty laundry.”

Eating, not dieting

Moll knows it’s tempting to try yet another diet. She often did so herself. “But for most people, diets don’t work. If food is a drug for you, a stimulant, you struggle with two opposed desires. On the one hand, you want to have a healthy relationship to food, on the other hand, you want to enjoy it. Diets maintain an obsession with food. You keep thinking about what you ‘can’ and ‘can’t’ eat. While all you want, is a stable, good relationship to food.”

Break the habits

Most people have fixed eating routines that depend on where they are and when. The only way to get out of that pattern is to unlearn the habit. “That doesn’t mean you have to banish all the good stuff from your life. It means learning to choose very consciously, because you really like certain foods, and not because you have a desire that needs to be satisfied immediately. So, by all means, plan to have a nice piece of pie during a long walk with a friend. But if, at that moment, you think ‘I’d like a second piece’, realize that you don’t have to give in to that idea. By training yourself, you’ll get to know your body, and the call of your primitive brainpart doesn’t keep bothering you.’

Feel what you feel

Perhaps, for you, food is connected to how you feel. If you are pleasurably anticipating a city trip, you immediately think of getting nice snacks to eat on the road. The feeling of rejection you have after an unpleasant conversation at work, or when your relationship is in a rough patch, makes you crave for food. “To taste, chew and swallow makes a bad feeling fade away. That’s how your brain learns: ah, a bad feeling, reward coming up!’

The strong person inside you

To get out of this vicious circle, you need to be curious about what you’re feeling. Moll: “Who are you when you just let the feeling of rejection or misery go through you, without pacifying it with food? You need to learn how to feel it, without looking for an escape in food.” It’s not hard, says Moll, just inconvenient. But this inconvenience, and the ‘withdrawal’ from the habit of pacifying it with snacks, is temporary. And strangely enough, this inconvenience can be something to look forward to. “If you look deeply into your own eating habits, you want to get through the inconvenience. Because you know that once you are through, you’ll be on the other side of your struggle, and you’ll feel like the strong person you know is inside of you.”

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Gardie Design

 

This is who you should fall in love with, based on your moon sign

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Love is complicated, but your moon sign can help you to see if the two of you are made for eachother. The moon represents your emotions and how you respond to others in relationships. 

Your moon sign is determined by the position of the moon during your birth. To discover what the moon’s position was at the time, you can use this tool. If your signs aren’t complementary, but you're in a happy relationship anyway, you’re one of the (many!) cosmic exceptions. Just enjoy this match – it may not be in the stars, but it makes you happy, that's all that matters. 

Note that every sign referred to is a moon sign (less well-known than the star sign): Aries is someone with a moon in Aries, etc. 

The moon in Aries 

You’re straightforward. You like to think fast, cut to the chase and you’re confident when you’re talking – whether it’s about painful emotions or groceries. You’re evidently a fire sign, and you fancy… someone with the same sign. Aries matches Aries, because they need someone who has the same ease and charisma. You guys communicate in a playful way, and you don’t have to fear the other person will overrule you. There can be a spark with a Leo, too, but Scorpions or Cancers are a no go. 

The moon in Taurus

Taurus is known for being stubborn, especially when it comes to love. Luckily, love goddess Venus helps you. It would be nice if you could find another Taurus to enjoy the good things in life, but the two of you would probably clash. That’s why you’re a better match with someone who has a moon in Virgo or Capricorn. It’s wise to stay away from Libra – they find it hard to remain calm when they are teased. 

The moon in Gemini

You’re not the kind of person for long, stable relationships and you tend to flutter from one objet d’amour to the other. The planet that’s most important to you –passionate and talkative Mercury– prefers a sign like Libra or Aquarius for you, because you can have great conversations with them. The moons of the more serious Capricorn and Scorpio offer more of a challenge for you. Dating Pisces can be tempting, because flirty combined with volatile is a great combination for a fling.

The moon in Cancer 

You’re very in touch with your emotions. You know what you feel, you pay attention to other people’s feelings and love to talk about your spiritual world. With Pisces, you can have a dreamy relationship, and the more reserved Scorpio might be a good match too. Extrovert and loud Leo is probably too much for your sensitive personality. 

The moon in Leo 

You are the kind of person who loves perfection, and who would do anything to achieve it. You work hard, you love creating order out of chaos and you’re good at grabbing any chance that falls into your lap. You appreciate it if your partner recognizes that, and that’s why you’re a good match with action driven Aries or optimistic Sagittarius. Most important is that your partner is confident enough to keep up with you. That’s why stubborn Taurus and protective Scorpio are probably not the best choice for you. 

The moon in Virgo 

Did anyone say ‘self criticism’ and ‘analysis’? Those two words describe you in a relationship. You keep analyzing every situation and every conversation. You like perfection in relationships. A fellow Virgo or a down to earth Capricorn is a good match, but slackers like Aquarius and Sagittarius would clash with you. 

The moon in Libra 

The order of things, balance, that’s important to you. You’re a tactful partner, always looking for harmony. But you have an airy, creative side too. That’s why you’re a good match with Aquarius and Capricorn. Aries, however, might get you into trouble – they have a strong survival instinct that might make you want to escape. 

The moon in Scorpio

There’s no sign as profound and reserved as Scorpio. You look for what’s below the surface and see details and little pieces of information that others miss entirely. Your partner might think twice before they pull a prank on you. An intimate Taurus or intelligent Virgo could be a good match, because they understand your ambition and drive. An independent Aquarius, however, might dislike your tendency to see through depths. 

The moon in Sagittarius 

You find joy and enthusiasm in almost everything you do, and you have a strong faith in everything related to the matters of the heart. Whoever gets into a relationship with you has to be open minded. Gemini or Aquarius, who have an optimistic outlook on relationships, might be a good match with you, but an overly sensitive Cancer or stubborn Taurus are not the best choice. 

The moon in Capricorn

You’re always looking for the way up: you’re always climbing, always working hard to reach the best things. The strict planet Saturn reigns over your moon, and a serious Taurus or Virgo understand your ambition. A Cancer with a domestic side may help you to create a stable and disciplined home. Libra, however, will demand you to descend from your mountain, which might be a problem in the long run.

The moon in Aquarius

Calm, cool and collected, that’s what you are. You know how to approach situations in an independent way and you’re good at cooperating with a common goal. In a relationship, you’re a good match with someone spontaneous and courages. A Leo will challenge you to find your power and supports your individuality, but a stubborn Taurus or impatient Aries are less advisable. 

The moon in Pisces 

You’re a gentle hearted dreamer. In a relationship, you look for a person who’s less submissive than you are, which means a moon in Aries or Sagittarius isn’t a good idea. An intense Scorpio or efficient Virgo, however, can keep you down to earth. 

Photo: Niti K. 

 

How to recognize a toxic friend: 9 warning signs your friendship isn't good for you

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If you’ve been friends with someone for a long time, it’s hard to imagine your life without them. However, it’s wise to take a close look at your friendship every once in a while. Does it still help you grow? 

If your friend stopped listening 

Sure, you’re willing to listen to their stories about the nagging new colleague, difficult family situation or physical discomfort. But if they hardly respond to the things you tell them, or immediately relate everything to themselves (no, my relationship isn’t exactly the same as yours), it might be time for change. Friendships have to be two-way streets. 

If they’re not there for you

Friendship comes in all shapes and sizes and there’s nothing wrong with friends you simply watch movies with or go to the gym with. But the best friends should be there for you. If they’re not, you might wonder what use the friendship is to you. 

If you feel relieved or tired after they’ve left

This is probably the #1 sign that something’s off in your friendship: if you’re happy they’re leaving again. One thing’s for sure: this friendship only costs you energy, it doesn’t give you any. 

If you fight over the most ridiculous things

Fighting doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Just like in a relationship, the occasional explosion can clear the air. But this only happens when a fight is about something substantial. If you guys keep fussing about little things, all this negativity gets under your skin. 

If your friend can’t handle criticism 

Some people are sensitive. There’s nothing wrong with keeping that and mind and being careful with criticism. But in the end, good friends need to be able to tell eachother they are making a mistake – simply because they wish the best for eachother. 

If they can’t keep a secret 

‘Oh, by the way, me and that other friend talked about your relationship trouble.’ Wait a minute – did she just talk about this sensitive issue with someone else? Good friends know when to keep things a secret. 

If they don’t care about your family and other friends

Good friends care about you, and want to know about your background. If they meet your friends and family, they want to get to know them, because they are important to you too. If they don’t, they may be jealous or they simply don’t care. Which isn’t a good sign. 

If they don’t pay for things

It may seem like a small thing, but admit it: it does get annoying if your friend’s a cheapskate. (Of course, if they’re having money issues, it’s different. Although it’s always unpleasant if they keep letting you pay all the bills or ‘forgetting’ to pay you back). 

If they judge you

There are a few important elements in every friendship, and respect is probably the most important one. How can one ever feel safe with a friend if they don’t respect them? Many unpleasant aspects of a friendships are surmountable (no one is perfect), but this one means code red. 

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Greg Raines

 

 

This is how you reduce work stress and truly enjoy your leisure time

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Do you lie awake thinking about work sometimes? Do you feel guilty if you don’t immediately answer an incoming e-mail at night? Do you think a lot about your job during the weekend? Then it’s time to create some distance between you and the work space. Here’s how you do that.

Prioritize

No matter how important the points on your to do list are, prioritizing is always possible. If you start feeling stressed, try to take a rational look at your lists. What’s the most important thing? And, if you really need to finish everything today, which chore needs to have the highest quality (and which ones don’t have to be perfect)? 

Start postponing 

Are you the kind of person who likes to finish chores as soon as possible, because you feel it’s better not to postpone things? It might cause a lot of frustration, because it’s not always possible to finish things today. Challenge yourself to postpone chores more often. Make realistic to do lists with things you’re actually able to finish today, and put the rest on tomorrow’s list.   

Neglect your phone

The phone is a source of work related stress. If an email from a colleague (or your boss) pops up while you’re cooking, watching TV, riding your bike, chances are you immediately feel some tension. It helps to delete your business mail account from your phone. That way, you have to deliberately start your computer. It’s wise to put your phone away after eight o’clock at night, or put it on flight mode. And whatever you do, don’t take it into the bedroom. If you make the place where you sleep a work-free zone, you will get more rest.

Create a quiet place 

Take the time to clean up your working space regularly. Not just your desk, but your computer as well (or any kind of work place). It may not seem like the most important chore, but it actually is important: if your space is clean and neat, your mind will be more peaceful.  

Identify with other things

If you’re an ambitious person, chances are you identify with the job you do. Imagine you would be forced to do something completely different: how would you feel? Think of other aspects of your life that determine who you are. It helps to put the importance of work into perspective, and to enjoy the times when you are doing other things – like walking, eating, making music, singing, taking the dog for a walk, exercising… the list is endless. 

Focus on what you’re doing

A little mindfulness goes a long way. It helps you to distance yourself from work. Try to focus on the moment, whatever you are doing: working, taking a break, relaxing on the couch. It takes some practice, but it will help you to find rest. Ironically, this rest will make you more productive when you’re working. 

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Natalia Figueredo

Why it's possible to turn the most difficult experiences into something positive

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Sharon Salzberg had a difficult childhood. Along the way, she discovered that no matter how painful her memories were, there was something valuable about it too: it gave her a lot of compassion for others and the ability to look below the surface. 

Change your life and be happier 

When I was seventeen, I took an Asian philosophy course that was really about buddhism. It was almost by accident that I took the class, but it changed my life. First of all, there was the Buddha saying that suffering is a part of life, because it is inevitable and natural.

Like many people, I had a difficult childhood. I didn't know what to do with all these feelings inside of me and I felt isolated from everyone around me. Then, there's this Buddha saying: You're not so different, you don't have to feel alone! And then, I heard there are methods you can actually use to change your life and be happier, called meditation. Later, when I did meditation for the first time, it clicked right then and there. I sat down, started feeling my breath although my knees hurt. I felt that this was right, this was true. 

Something valuable 

One of my teachers told me two things that were amazing. She said that I should teach, because I really understood suffering. It was probably the first time I thought of my childhood as something valuable. I wouldn't say my childhood and my suffering were a gift, that's a little too much, but it gave me a lot of compassion for others and an ability to look below the surface. Zen teacher Joan Halifax said something like: 'Don't think of trauma as a gift, think of it as a given.' Your pain is there, what happened happened, you can decide to make something good out of it. 

Text: Eveline Helmink - Photo: Jeremy Bishop

This is a letter that every woman should read on Mother's Day

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This is an ode to all women. To all the mothers, sisters, daughters and girlfriends. This is an ode to the stripes on our bellies, the lumps on our thighs. To our lioness power. To the fantastic beings we are. 

Dear woman,

Our softness, our skin that gives in a little – that’s where I see our beauty.

The stripes on our bellies, the lumps on our thighs, sometimes move me because they are so human.

And oh, how we don’t learn to handle the glances at our bodies – judging, inspecting, longing – until these glances have become rarities.

I love our bellies when we’re pregnant. Subtlely puffing up at first, then big and round and powerful, showing the fire in our bosoms that belongs to anyone but ourselves.

I love our capacity to feel deeply, to sense and empathize, and how carefully we cherish and show it.

How we can suddenly become furious like Electra, with a lionesses power that may have been slumbering, but that was at our disposal the whole time.

I see us in the tops of my mother’s fingers, rough as they are from working hard and caring.

And in my friends’ bursts of laughter, their generous arms that are so good at comforting waving highly in the sky when we dance.

In the silent looks of my girl child, as she’s looking for places tob ring her love – all the love that flows freely and unsuspectingly, because no one has stolen any of it yet.

See how we want to guard our sons and protect our daughters, and still choose to embrace them with arms open.

How we’ve been belittled for centuries, used or put on pedestals way too high, and how it taught us to get up again after we fall.

How we’ve learned to endure tough power systems, because we knew that ‘the soft powers will win in the end’.

Here we are, as daughters in a long line of grandmothers and mothers, as neighbors, doctors, dancers and presidents.

Would you see how all of us are born as perfect creatures, but some of us have gotten convinced of the contrary?

I thank all of you, my sisters, for every helping hand, supporting wink, understanding glance and kind word. Never forget how magnificent we are.

With love and high regard for all that you are,

Susan Smit

 

Photo: Ana Gabriel

 

How to love your body and 9 other life lessons you learn at the gym

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Having trouble finding the motivation to get yourself to the gym? After reading these 10 life lessons, you'll want to go. The gym is a source of wisdom. Ten spiritual reasons to work up a sweat.

Lesson 1: You encounter yourself

They say that working out makes you encounter yourself. What an encounter that is! At the gym and in the playing field you find out a lot about yourself. You get to know your body, you experience muscles in places you had no idea you had them, your whole body tingles and glows. You come home into your own body.

That’s why it’s easier to feel where you flex your muscles when you shouldn’t: you’re more alert to a wrong posture and you change it playfully, perhaps even without noticing.

Lesson 2: It makes you humble

Your ego tends to get bored during a workout. Because, let’s face it: most of the time, you don’t look all that good. You’re sweating, moaning, growing purple… The air streams from your inflated ego, and then it fills itself again with fresh air. You feel good, so you have a friendlier outlook on humanity. You are more sensitive to others’ needs when you’re in touch with your own body. Empathy is based on this awareness. 

Lesson 3: It makes you happier

Athletes know all about it and scientists have proven it: exercise improves your mood significantly. It releases higher amounts of the substances in the brain that make you happy, such as endorphin, dopamine and serotonine. Going for a run three times a week is as good for your soul as therapy or meditation.

Going to the gym on a regular basis can even prevent depression and burn-out: the more you exercise, the less likely you are to develop psychological complaints. Supposably, four hours of exercise a week is the perfect amount. That’s half an hour a day and one hour a week. But research also shows that the first twenty minutes of every work-out produces the highest level of happiness hormones. Even if you start off easily.

Lesson 4: You learn to love your body

If you exercise regularly, you automatically start appreciating your body more. Because it does so much for you: how could you not appreciate it? This realization makes you take better care of your body. After an intense work-out, you don’t reward yourself with some fries, but rather choose a green smoothie or a handful of nuts. Your body is your temple, and this becomes more than a phrase: you feel it in your bones. No matter how imperfect you think your body is, it deserves respect.

Lesson 5: You arrive in the now

Workout = mindfulness XL! Fresh air in your lungs, sweat on your skin, your muscles flexing, the wind in your hair: it’s all happening right here, right now. The oxygen in your brain wakes up your senses. It seems as if you see, hear, smell and feel more intensely (of course, there’s less of an effect if you’re wearing headphones outside, or looking at a tv screen at the gym). Exercise as zen as you can, empty your mind, let the wind blow away your thoughts and be as present as you can be. Feel what you’re doing, breathe consciously, stretch with 100% awareness. This moment, right now, is all you have. 

Lesson 6: It gives you energy

Sometimes, you think you’re too tired for a game of tennis or a pilates lesson – and then, if you do decide to go, you realize that the exercise activates you. ‘Had a rough night’ is a reason to hurry to the gym – not to sit on the sofa. Life is all about paradoxes, and this is one of the best ones: exercise gives you more energy than it costs you. It’s the same in spiritual life: you get what you give.

Lesson 7: Set your boundaries

It’s not until you challenge yourself physically, that you discover the boundaries of your body. You can do much more than you thought, and yet there are things you’re not capable of. Sports and work-out are constant reality checks. And being a realist makes you more self-confident.

Lesson 8: You learn to follow through

If you work out regularly, you’ll find that it’s easier to develop other good habits, such as meditating or studying. Your body leads the way for your mind. Physical exercise creates perseverance, and that brings you further in life.

Lesson 9: It makes you smarter

The gym is a source of life lessons. And you take all these insights with you in your daily life – because you feel them in your body. Your body and mind are one, what happens in your mind, translates to your soul. For instance, take running. Every gym instructor knows it’s better to take long steps than to trot.

In the end, running is something you do in the air: the ‘floating’ phase between two steps is essential. Isn’t that the same in life? There’s always a floating phase between two steps of growth, when there’s no certainty and you commit yourself to the air. Running, outside or on a treadmill, is an exercise in letting go and trusting life itself.

Lesson 10: You learn to relax

A work-out is, in fact, all about stress: your heart is beating harder, you’re moaning, your brain produces substances that also emerge when you’re in danger. But there is no real danger, so you get calm again, time and time again. This teaches your body to pacify itself, in times of mental stress as well. Exercise also makes you sleep better, research shows. But it also makes you relax on a deeper, more spiritual level. If you and your body are one, you and the universe are one too. Because if your body feels like home, the earth does, too.

Photo: Christopher Campbell

 

 

Single? Embrace your desire - and other spiritual 'rules' for living a fulfilled life

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We all know happiness is only to be found within ourselves, never in anyone else. But it doesn’t always feel like that, especially when you’re single. Sometimes doubt and loneliness can get the best of you. How do you prevent your desire for love from wearing you out? 

These are four spiritual ‘rules’ for living a happy and fulfilled life – with or without a lover.

1. Embrace your desire

There’s nothing wrong with longing for love, a buddy, arms around you. If you try to repress that feeling, it will not disappear, but goes underground and will put a haze over your life. So: feel that desire. However, the trick is to focus on how desire feels in your body. Make sure it doesn’t get to your head, where it tends to transform into depressed thoughts, regret or resentment. In your body, at worst, desire gives you a cramp: your stomach’s in a knot, there’s a pressure on your chest. Focus on this feeling, lovingly and acceptingly. Examine it, welcome it. Embrace the desire. Accepting your desire doesn’t mean you give in to the temptation of drifting away. It means you take your desire seriously, in reality, as a source of energy.

2. Contribute

What is it you can contribute? Whatever it is, this talent is what you live for – not the partner you might not have. If you haven’t found your gift yet, the search for it is your priority. Keep in mind, every day, that you’re alive because you have something important to do. Something the world can’t do without.

3. Be connected to your body

Loneliness can only come up when you’re astranged from your body. As long as you’re in touch with your own body, you feel connected to nature, to people around you, to life itself. For singles, it’s even more important to maintain contact with their body. Pay attention to it every which way you can. Meditate, practice sports, do tai chi or any other  physical exercise. Dance. Spoil yourself at the spa, get a massage. Garden, be in touch with nature.

4. Solve your own problems

If there’s a conflict bothering you, perhaps you feel like you need a lover to support you. Or perhaps you believe you’ve put on an armour of cynicism, because you’re alone: if you had a loving, understanding partner, you would dare to be more vulnerable in life. In fact, you’re looking for a babysitter, a handyman, a coach or a father figure. But there will never be someone solving your problems for you. Best case scenario: you’ll find a partner who wants to save a needy woman or man, and you’ll be doomed to be needy forever, just to keep them satisfied.

Stand on your own two feet. It makes you happier and more attractive.  Sooner or later, love might just knock on your door again – Amors ways are unfathomable, and you’re never too old to fall in love. Then you’ll find that these four spiritual rules will remain in full force during a relationship.

Text: Lisette Thooft - Photo: Nick Beswick

 

Every parent struggles sometimes. This is how you find the courage to ask for help

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Being a parent sometimes feels like a lonely job: physically, emotionally and mentally. You don't have to do everything on your own. It takes a village to raise a child, they say, all you need to do is ask for help. This is how you do that. 

There’s a lot of things parents need to do, nowadays. But what if you really don’t know how to fit thirty complicated birthday treats, your three year old’s potty training, soccer training and piano class, PTA meeting and seven freshly cooked meals into one week? Or if you lie awake thinking of your stuttering toddler, your depressed teenager or their highly sensitive sibling who’s being bullied at school? Can you allow people to help you? And how? 

It takes a village…

The first thing you need to know, is that being a parent has never been such a lonely thing as it is today. Because where is that village from the proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child’? Even if you have the luxury of a co-parenting partner, managing a family is a heavy and lonely job: physically, emotionally and mentally. 

The second thing you need to know, is that having problems is normal. ‘Every parent struggles sometimes,’ says Elselijn Valter-Rote, married, mother of three and therapist. ‘Whether it’s a difficult toddler phase or a highly sensitive child. And there’s a lot you can’t control, many things have little to do with the way you raise them.’ 

But how do you ask for help, if you’ve lost it? 

1.    Accept the answer

Sometimes, or often, help is welcome when you’re trying to manage and guide your family. But asking for help isn’t easy. Lesson 1 in the art of asking for help is: allowing the other person to say no. If deep down, you’re expecting them to say yes, and if rejection makes you angry or sad, your question wasn’t a question but a demand. 

2. Don’t judge (yourself)

Another important thing: don’t judge yourself for having difficulties with your situation. Asking for help is difficult. What you need, is confidence in the fact that it’s always OK to have desires and wishes, and at the same time, acceptance of the fact that you can’t control whether you’ll get what you want.

For some of us, this is something new, we weren’t all raised with this confidence or acceptance. So if you have found the courage to ask another mother in school whether your son or daughter can come over to play and she says no, it may hurt your feelings. 

3. Put things into perspective 

Don’t wait too long to ask people and don’t put things out of perspective. ‘Many people don’t ask for help until they really don’t know what else to do,’ says therapist Elselijn Valter-Rote, ‘It’s never too late to ask for help, but it’s never too soon either.’ 

Text: Lisette Thooft - Photo: Thiago Cerqueira

An ode to maternal love - because we should never take it for granted

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The love mothers feel for their children, is the most beautiful kind of love there is. Unconditional maternal love is often seen as something self-evident, but we should cherish it. Especially on Mother's day. 

When a woman becomes a mother, they say it changes her life completely. She enters a new world, where exhaustion and trial go hand in hand with joy and intense love. Mothers around me have tried to explain it to me, but I can’t really understand it yet. Motherhood is probably something only mothers understand, so until then, I will probably keep wondering. Mothers love their children unconditionally, that’s the norm. If they don’t, we disapprove of it. We don’t really think about it, until there’s a lack of maternal love. But Mothers’ Day is the time of year to realize how amazing it is. 

Hurting your mom’s feelings

Small, helpless children are easy to love. They exhaust you, they annoy you and there are times when you can’t stand to be around them, but they never hurt you on purpose. Nowadays, I have a strong connection with my mom, but when I was younger, my mom had a hard time handling me. Puberty was hard on me, so I was hard on my mom. I know I caused her pain then, by saying nasty things I knew would hurt her feelings. A lot of time has passed, and when I think of that time, I’m still amazed of how persistant my mom’s love for me was. If I ever meet someone who treats me the way I treated my mom then, I know I would get away from them in an instant.   

The ultimate love

I don’t think about my mom’s love all that often. Mothers’ unconditional love is something we take for granted – society does, children do, mothers themselves do. But maternal love is something we should cherish more. In every other relationship, there comes a time when you’ve had enough. Mothers are the only ones who can handle everything. Their pure love is the ultimate love. A love that can only be understood when felt.  

Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Joshua Rodriguez

 

Seven ways to say no in a clear, but friendly way (keep it short and simple)

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It may seem like a contradiction: being friendly and kind, yet guarding your boundaries. But saying no and remaining friendly is perfectly possible. In fact, it's a way of practicing loving kindness. Towards yourself, and others.

Loving kindness doesn’t mean you have to be limitless in your efforts to help other people, or to be liked. Metta, the form of Buddhism in which loving kindness is key, means wishing another person to be happy, to find their way towards a lighter way of living. It’s an attitude that you can practice without saying things you don’t mean. 

The first part of the metta meditation is: ‘may I be happy, may I be well, may I be safe.’ In the second part, you wish the same to someone else. In the third part, you wish the same to everyone. That’s why metta is about wholeness and unity. You wish for the wellbeing of every living creature, including yourself. Loving kindness can be: no, I can’t help you right now, but I wish for you that your needs will be fulfilled.  

Seven ways to say no in a friendly way: 

1. Look the person in the eye, stand firmly and speak clearly. Make contact. 

2. If you know immediately that your answer will be ‘no’, act right away. By waiting and replying later, you leave them ‘hanging’ and you carry the decision with you. If you haven’t decided yet, ask for some time to think.

3. Don’t use words like ‘maybe’ or ‘later’ when all you want to say, is no. 

4. Oftentimes, you can phrase the reason for saying no in a positive way, by letting them know what you will be focusing your time and attention on. If you want, you can thank them for the trust they put in you by asking you this question. 

5. Give one reason for saying no, and stick with that. Keep it short and simple. 

6. If someone keeps pressing, explain to them in a friendly manner that this makes you feel uncomfortable. 

7. Leave room for this person’s possible disappointment, by acknowledging it and not judging – but don’t turn it into your problem. 

Photo: Dangtimô Thimô 

Are you an empathetic person? This is how you keep yourself from sympathizing too much

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Empathy means being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s a quality that enriches your life, but if you’re very empathetic, the world can be overwhelming. Perhaps you’d like to be a bit more indifferent – but is that possible, without losing your empathy? (Yes, it is. And here’s how.) 

Perhaps it’s the most beautiful quality

Empathy is the ability to imagine what someone else is feeling, and it might be the best human quality. Empathy strengthens your connection with others, it allows us to have valuable conversations and makes us help people when they need it. 

The more empathetic you are, the easier it is for you to imagine what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. Sometimes, it can be too much for you. Especially in times when, through social media, lots of personal stories enter your life. There’s so much hurt in the world, how can we not be overwhelmed by all that? 

‘You can’t let all that get to you,’ people say. ‘You can’t solve all the problems in the world.’ That’s easy for them to say, because, if you’re very empathetic, you can’t turn it off. And maybe you don’t want to. But if it feels like you’re flooded with empathy sometimes, this might help. 

1. Time for action

Empathy is a feeling that urges you to act. And in the end, the best way to handle that is: listen to your feelings. If you let people’s difficult situations get to you, try to act on it. Bring them some soup, send them a postcard. 

2. Change your perspective

It also helps to think of the downsides of empathy. Does that sound weird? ‘The problem is that empathy is short-sighted,’ philosopher Ignaas Devisch writes in his book ‘The Excess of Empathy’. Empathy usually focuses on one individual, but that makes you lose sight of the group (suffering from the same setbacks) – in fact, that’s quite unfair. 

The solution? Change your perspective. Support organizations that try to bring structural change, such as poverty reduction, helping children in warzones or refugees. 

3. Look for balance

Devisch advocates what he calls ‘a functional indifference’. He says it’s simply impossible to be empathetic to everyone, it would cause a psychological overload. 

The trick is to find a balance. Not by being less empathetic, but by, for instance, saving your empathy mainly for the people you know, and striving for more equality – or supporting organizations who do. The latter may be less personal, but it’s just as important. This way, you keep your head up, knowing you can’t solve all the problems in the world, but doing all you can.

Text: Anne Wesseling - Photo: Annie Spratt

Why anger is a functional emotion, that shouldn't be suppressed

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Anger is ugly - Susan knows all about it. One day, she bit an ex boyfriend – out of sheer rage. However, she thinks we should make room for our anger and feel it, because it’s there for a reason. 

In this day and age, spiritual enlightenment is regarded as the highest and most important thing there is, and anger has become a taboo. We think we have to tolerate and bear everything that happens to us. ‘Accept the things you cannot change,’ we tell each other. Anger is for people who haven’t grown as much as we have, spiritually. For the losers who haven’t managed to deal with this inferior emotion, yet. 

Anger is inevitable

Everyone who’s  feeling powerless, treated unjustly, rejected, ignored, lied upon or even cheated on, will probably get angry at some point. They may even get hysterically, uncontrollably angry. Or they don’t get angry at all, which is far worse. Then the anger turns inside, transforming into depression, passivity or cynicism. 

Anger is ugly. When I was at my angriest, I once bit my ex in his arm (there wasn’t any blood, I want to add, but it caused a visible dental impression). Anger is the opposite of serene and wise. You might think you have to banish it, if you ever want to be enlightened and happy. Don’t. 

Anger needs to be expressed

Anger is a pure and normal emotion that needs to be felt and expressed. If you take away my three-year-old’s toy car, he will yell. And he’s right to do so. By accepting your anger, you take yourself seriously and release vital energy. If you don’t see it as a bad thing, and don’t judge yourself for it, you will express it to the very person who caused it, in a (hopefully) constructive way. And not years after, with an innocent new lover or counter assistant. You deliver the mail in the right place. 

Besides, anger is functional. It’s the fuel you need to guard your boundaries, it helps you to take care of the things you need and distinguishes what’s right and what’s wrong. It nourishes you with a glowing energy that’s bigger than your shyness, your fear and your modesty combined, it makes you clarify to people that enough is enough, and revolt. 

It's a phase that can't be skipped

Being angry at something you’re not able to change, is regarded as a spiritual sin (so is being sad about it). Whatever. Sometimes, things are f***ing unfair, and you’re allowed to swear at them. When the anger falls off, you realize that it comes from an illusion: the assumption that you have a right to things (happiness, health, success, another person’s love) and that everyone needs to help you get that. If you think of it that way, anger is the transitional phase between expectations to reality. That phase cannot be skipped, no matter how much we want to. 

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Aral Tasher

Are you jealous? This is how you turn jealousy into something useful (and get what you want)

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Jealousy is an unpleasant emotion, but believe it or not: it really has its upside. What does your jealousy mean? Ask yourself these three questions and you’ll find out. 

Jealousy at a friend who gets the job you wanted. It's a simple example of someone who has something you would really want to have, too. Even if you think you’re not jealous at all, it may suddenly hit you. They have something you don’t, and it doesn’t seem fair. You don’t want to, but admit it: you’re jealous. 

Physical emotion

It’s a physical emotion, that’s what makes it difficult to be jealous. It can truly feel like a stab, it can make you nauseous. The most plausible solution is to turn away from the person you’re jealous of. 

But that’s a shame. Especially if it’s someone you love, or who’s important to you. Jalousy can turn into envy, making you point your arrows at the one who has what you don’t have – arrows that can poison a relationship, and in the end will hit you, and fill you with resentment and other emotional unpleasantness. 

You don't want to be jealous

You don’t want to go there. But what do you want to do? The difficulty is that you'd probably prefer to deny all of it. You don’t want to be jealous. All you want is to be filled with the emotion Buddhists named murdita, the feeling you have when you enjoy other people’s joy and prosperity – straight from your noble heart. 

But you can’t force that. Denying jealousy doesn’t work, it only makes things worse.  In fact, the solution is: don’t deny it, but dig into it and find out what causes your jealousy, and then use that to increase your own joy and prosperity. 

What does jealousy mean? Ask these questions, and you’ll find the answer.

1. What’s your desire?

If you are jealous, you have a desire for something. You want something you don’t have right now. So the first question is: what are you jealous of? 

If you’re jealous of a colleague who just found a new job, what is it in the job that causes your jealousy? Is it the job itself (and what’s so special about it)? Or is it the simple fact that she has the guts to take new steps, to chase her dreams? Think about it, and try to describe it as precisely as possible. 

2. How could you fulfill it?

This is a valuable insight: jealousy is usually about something that’s within your reach. Something you might have had, too. (Think about it: if you’re not athletic at all, you’re not jealous of an athlete.) 

You might think of jealousy as a signal of inequality and an impulse to change it, make it equal. Jealousy, to put it bluntly, kicks your ass. It urges you to take action and go after your goal – a goal that, apparently, is within your reach. So ask yourself: how could you reach the goal you want to reach? Which steps do you need to take? 

3. Who might be able to help you? 

The person who might help you, might very well be the very person you’re jealous of. Just admit that you’re jealous (it makes it so much easier!) and ask this person: what did they do to reach the point where they are? Could she share some tips and tricks? Then, look around you. Are there others who might help you – a coach, friends? In short: ask for help, and get into action. 

Use jealousy in a positive way 

The latter, getting into action, is the start of a solution. You might even think of it as the very meaning of jealousy – when you get into action, and try to get closer to your goal, jealousy disappears. It might be too much to be content with your jealousy from now on, because it will never be a pleasant. But, if you want to, you can turn it into something positive and use it to reach your goals. That’s a whole different story! 

Text: Anne Wesseling - Photo: Antonio Francisco

Feeling stressed out and restless? A simple change in your breathing might calm you down

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If your mind keeps racing, or your body feels restless, there's a simple trick: change your breathing. You will be surprised of the effects, especially if you do a breathing exercise every day. 

We all know what restlessness feels like. Your breathing moves from your belly to your ribs or higher, your breathing speeds up. You tell yourself to breathe slowly. Breathe in, keep it for three seconds, breathe out slowly. If this works for you, it feels good. But perhaps it doesn’t do the trick for you. Breathing therapy might be worth the try for you. 

Breathing is easy, right? 

We can do without food for about six weeks, we can do without water for a couple of days. But we can do without breathing for no more than a few minutes. We breathe about 12 times a minute and during a day, our lungs let in and out about 8000 litres of air. For most of us, breathing is an automatic process. And thankfully so: imagine we would have to think about every breath of air our lungs welcomed. 

However, in some situations, it’s useful to be aware of your breath. The beauty of breathing carefully, is that you can decide yourself what you want to do with it. 

Breathing therapy: how, what and why

If you’re experiencing stress for a long time, your body gets disturbed. The same goes for your breathing: continuous tension may lead to a less efficient way of breathing. It costs a lot of energy and may cause unpleasant stress. 

Breathing therapy teaches you how to use your belly-, side- and breast breathing. An important aspect of the therapy is learning to recognize, and handle stress signals of your body. It makes breathing therapy a useful thing for every person. 

Many people who use breathing therapy, struggle with anxiety, depression, burn out or sleeping problems. However, problems with physical causes such as chronic pain, voice problems, and back problems can be a good reason to visit a breathing therapist. 

The variety among these problems shows how functional a healthy, regulated breathing is in many aspects. Curious as to what focusing on your breathing may bring you? Try it and allow yourself a moment of peace with the following exercise. 

Catch your breath 

A nice set of lungs and a quiet place, that’s all you need for this simple but effective exercise. This exercise helps you to focus on your belly breath and, if you repeat it regularly, it allows you to relax during the day. 

Ready? Here it goes. 

Stand, sit down or lie down in a comfortable way (whichever you prefer, or whichever is possible in the space you’re in) and put both hands on your body. One at your chest, the other at your belly. Take a deep breath through your nose, hold your breath for a few seconds and breathe out through your mouth. Breathing in, you will feel your lungs expanding. Focus on nothing else but your body during ten minutes, while you keep breathing in and out. Do you feel it? The tension will decrease with every breath. 

If you really want the effect to last, make sure you do this exercise every day, for a couple of weeks. It will bring more peace and quiet in your mind, your body and, in the end, your whole life. 

Text: Eline Hoffman - Photo: Natalia Figueredo

This is why horses bring us happiness (it's not just their good looks and nice smell)

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Simply standing in front of a horse and gently stroking his nose can suddenly make you feel all peaceful. How is it possible that horses have such a calming effect on us? 

Rupert Isaacson knows all about it: at his horse ranch in Texas, he experiences the influence of horses on children with autism every day. He wrote the bestselling books 'The Horse Boy' and 'The Long Ride Home' about the journeys he made on horseback with his son Rowan. 

How come horses calm us? 

There's an old English saying: "There's nowt [nothing] so good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse." Why is this? 

Even if you're not a rider, it's almost impossible not to respond emotionally to the sheer beauty of horses - as Maya Angelou famously wrote: "Horses make a landscape more beautiful". 

But there is more. Not only are horses physically and sensorily very pleasing  - they don't just look good, their smooth coats and warm muscles feel good, and they even smell good - but their presence is almost always calming.

The Heart/Math Institute in California has been addressing itself to why this might be. It turns out that all hearts radiate a magnetic field. The bigger the heart, the bigger the field. Horses have huge hearts. Being within a few feet of the magnetic field resonating from that centre seems to fill us with empathy. And horses, being social animals with a drive to connect, tend to follow up that empathy with connection.

So far so good - but there's more. If you sit on a horse in motion, your hips rock in rhythm, especially if the horse is well trained. Anything that rocks your hips in rhythm for a long period of time feels good. Very good. The reason - this movement makes your body produce the happiness hormone oxytocin, which in turn calms your nervous system, tones your vital organs via the vagal nerve, and switches off the cell danger response (or amygdala) in the brain.

Not bad.

Horses carry us into adventure

Of course, a badly trained, or badly treated horse, can have the opposite effect... but in general if you just let the horse be a horse, without asking too much from him, and then stand in his magnetic field, let alone sit on his broad and wonderful back, happiness will result. 

And horses carry us. Into adventure. Into dream. They make us superhuman - faster, bigger, more powerful, more beautiful, when we ride them. Horses are freedom. To the Tibetans and the Mongolians, the horse represents your highest self. Your 'Wind Horse' is your mojo, your luck.

So, if life is largely about the pursuit of happiness, we know this - money can't buy happiness.

But it can buy horses. Which is pretty much the same thing.

And you don't even need to own them. you just have to be near them.

Who said magic isn't real?

Text: Rupert Isaacson - Photo: Fabian Burghardt

Looking for more intimacy in your relationship? 17 ways to get closer

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Smile at eachother more often, surprise them with a present or put away the phone for a few hours. Big gestures and declarations of love are very romantic, but true intimacy in a relationship is in the little things. 

Intimacy is the cornerstone of a strong relationship. It’s not just the physical kind, but also the spiritual and mental kind. In the early stages of a relationship, intimacy comes naturally, but that changes. The genuine interest for the other disappears, what is there to discover about them after all those years? Lots, marriage counselor Sharon Pope says. She thinks of curiosity as an important condition for true intimacy. It doesn’t mean you need to have deep conversations night after night – who has time for that? No, creating intimacy is much more subtle. Doing the following 17 things (more often) can be helpful.

Surprise your partner 

Get them a small gift, clean the house or surprise them with a night out. Not to get something done, or because it’s their birthday, but just because you can. 

Let them know you're thinking of them 

Even if it’s a busy day and there are thirteen more chores you have to do, a kind message only takes a few seconds. 

Share what’s going on in your mind 

Be open about what you’ve been through in life, what scares you, what you long for and what you look forward to. 

Listen to them 

Make sure you don’t get distracted when they tell you something, and really listen to them. Ask questions and try to imagine what it’s like to be in their shoes. 

Give compliments 

Everyone likes to get a compliment. It’s a way of showing them you appreciate them. 

Talk about memories 

Think about the nice times you’ve shared and talk about the memory with them. 

Say ‘thank you’ more often 

Thank them for something at least once a day. It doesn’t matter what for: whether it’s them taking out the garbage, or simply being there for you. 

Be forgiving

Allow them to be imperfect. Sometimes it’s better to compromise. 

Do something for them 

Clean the shower, take the empty wine bottles to the bottle bank or pick up clothes at the dry clearner’s. Help them with a chore they hate every once in a while. 

Look each other in the eyes

Eyes are the mirror of the soul, use that to find out which page they are on. 

Smile at them 

Just stop what you’re doing when they walk into the room and smile. 

Go on an adventure

It’s nice and easy to watch a TV show every night, but make sure you schedule new activities together, too. It doesn’t have to be something fancy: take time to cook, or plan a holiday together. 

Give them fifteen minutes 

No matter how tired you are, make sure you take at least fifteen minutes to talk about the day before you go to sleep. Especially in busy times, it can be a really powerful way to stay connected. 

Be present 

Deliberately turn off the phone, iPad or TV and focus on eachother. 

Start a mini book club 

Read the same book simultaneously and talk about it afterwards. Even better: read to eachother every night. 

Plan a staycation

Block a whole weekend (really block it) and be tourist in your own city. 

Go for a picknick 

Fresh air and a nice meal with a loved one never hurt anyone. 

Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Sweet Ice Cream Photography

Are you unhappy at work? This is how you quit your job

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Throwing in the towel, being a quitter, dropping out… there are few positive qualifications for quitting. In society, perseverance is much more valued. But sometimes, quitting is the best decision you can make. How do you do it? How do you leave a job that doesn’t make you happy? 

If it’s Sunday night and your belly is aching, simply because the working week is starting tomorrow. If you find it hard to make it through the day. If you can’t remember what you liked about your job in the first place. If there’s no one at work you feel safe with. Then it’s probably time to call it a day. This is how you do that. 

Scared? 

Quitting can be really scary. Especially if you have been working in the same place for a long time, because you’ve had all the time in the world to ask yourself difficult questions: are you even able to do anything else, will you settle there, will they like you there? And even more scary: how will you know if this other place is better than the one you’ve gotten used to? 

Be inspired by the experiences of others who have made a change in their careers. Make a list with all the pros and cons regarding leaving and staying, and pay attention to the feeling that the lists invoke in you. The list of pros doesn’t have to be longer, but if the thought of staying makes you feel exhausted, that’s all you need to know.  

Make a plan

The longer you wait, the bigger the chances that one day, you’ll be so frustrated that you’ll close the door behind you in an impulse. That’s one way of ending it, but even if the thought of doing so is extremely liberating, it’s not the sensible thing to do. 

Make sure to prevent that overload from happening and make a plan. How can you make your departure as safe as possible? In the meantime, until you’ve figured out a plan, make sure you schedule half an hour each day to find some rest. That makes it easier to hang in there for a while. If you can, start working less hours in the meantime. That will save you time to focus on your future. 

Ask for help

Let people who are close to you know that you’re looking for something new. At first, you tell a few people, only the ones you really trust. It will be a relief, and you’ll get a kick out of saying it out loud (yes, you’re really on your way to a new step!) and who knows what it might bring. Your friends and family may not immediately have a new job for you, but they might share some insight on who you are and what kind of job would suit you. 

Take the step

There’s no such thing as 100 percent certainty. Don’t wait until you have researched, considered and doubted all 1320793520234 options, just make a solid plan and then, after carefully balancing the pros and cons, take the step. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Keep the following cliché in mind, because it’s true: it’s better to regret something you’ve done, than something you wanted to do but didn’t. You can do this. 

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Christin Hume

This is a letter to all the children of divorced parents

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Dear child of divorced parents,

You probably know the song, and its words may be recognizable to you: ‘Sometimes moms and dads fall out of love, sometimes two homes are better than one, some things you can’t tell your sister ‘cause she’s still too young, yeah you’ll understand, when you love someone.’

It’s for the better, they say. You will understand it when you’re older, they say. That’s how love can be, they say. But in the meantime, you’re the one who has to travel from one house to the other all the time. You’re the one who has to miss mom and dad – always one of them. You’re the one who sees other children in the street who are walking between their mom and dad, and who think it’s the most natural thing in the world.

It’s all on your plate

Maybe, you can’t even remember the time when your parents lived in the same house with you. Or maybe they have just told you they are splitting up. Either way, dear child, I feel for you. I would want to carry the ‘missing’ for you, take away all the restlessness and beseech your fears, just as I –a child of divorced parents myself – would want want to do for my two small children and my two ‘bonus’ teenage daughters. But it’s all on your plate, no matter how small or big you are.

You love your mom and dad equally, no matter who left, no matter who was unfaithful, no matter who is said to be ‘guilty’ of making the family fall apart. You hate how one of your parents rejects or criticizes the other, because you feel they are rejecting part of who you are. Your heart hurts when one of your parents doesn’t want the other to come over, so they don’t even know what your bedroom looks like – as if your life exists of two separate parts, and there is no glue in the world that could keep them together. Your heart jumps up and you feel safe when you hear one of them speak the words: ‘Your mom and I have discussed…’ or ‘You are just as skillful as your dad.’ 

Memories have become complicated

When everything changed, you probably saw sadness, anger or panic in your parents. Or perhaps they didn’t show it, but you could feel it. Slowly but surely, there was room for laughter again, the frown left your dad’s forehead and the sadness left your mom’s eyes and everyone seemed to get used to the new situation. It comforted you, but you don’t like them acting like things were never different. Why did the old photo albums disappear from the cupboard, why did they take away the picture of you as a baby with mom and dad and why do they act indifferently when you share a memory from the time you all lived together? It seems as if that time is no longer allowed to exist, because it wasn’t ‘real’, or one big mistake.

Don’t you hate it when one of your parents tries to get information from you about the other, or when you have to pass on messages between them? After all, you’re not a mailman, are you? And don’t you hate it when appointments about when you’ll be picked up or taken someplace are vague or keep changing. Or when your parents try to compete about who’s the nicest parent.

Know that you are loved

Dear child, even though your parents make mistakes and handle the situation awkwardly, know they never intend to hurt you. Know that your feelings matter. Know that you’re always missed, but that you don’t have to worry about the parent you’re not with at the moment. Know that your feelings are normal, and that you are always allowed to feel and express them. Know that you are allowed to miss the other parent, that you’re never betraying the parent you’re with. Know you are loved, and that your parents’ love for new partner or new bonus children will never ever change that.

Know that you were never a mistake, even if your mom or dad talks about their relationship as if it was a mistake. You’re the opposite: you’re the biggest gift they ever had.

With love and respect for who you are and how you’re handling all this,

Susan

 

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Joseph Gonzales