What to Ask Yourself to Have a Meaningful Life

Ten years ago, loss of loved ones, health challenges, motherhood, financial concerns, isolation, humiliating mistakes, and impending move across the country to a harsh climate left me feeling drained and lacking clarity for my life. Glimpses of what I wanted for myself and my family disappeared. I felt angry, lost, blessed, confused, excited, afraid and eerily untethered.

How I Created a Meaningful Life (The MESSY Version!)

We settled in an unfamiliar land. I unpacked. I journaled. I cleaned my house. I washed laundry. I cried. I unpacked more boxes. I drank hot tea. I fed the dogs. I paid bills. I took deep breaths as I stared at bare refrigerator shelves. I created art. I got quiet. I got frustrated. I went back to school. I studied. I cared for my family. I worked at a low paying job. I took one step at a time. I had faith that a staircase to my life existed. I stopped taking steps. I doubted myself. I reconsidered. I took more steps. I learned from mistakes. I got inspired. I connected with others. I listened to Spirit. I ignored Spirit. I made more mistakes. I listened again. I took action. I realigned with my values. I rinsed and repeated over and over again.

The Daily Question

When I asked myself open-ended questions, I noticed deeper clarity and focus, tapping into solutions and ideas. My daily question became:

What is the next right step for me DESPITE my obstacles?

Despite lack of clarity or certainty.

Despite my plus-sized jeans missing a button.

Despite people who didn’t believe in me.

Despite my lack of knowledge.

Despite my fear.

Despite where I lived.

Despite my exhaustion and crappy thoughts.

Despite the amount of money in my bank account.

Despite my emotions.

Despite my imperfections.

Despite the distance from my loved ones.

Despite my messy house.

Despite the weather.

Despite busyness of having young children.

Despite my self-doubt.

I get teary-eyed thinking of all the times/places I asked myself that question. Now, fast-forward ten years, I get to do what I love, enjoy a loving marriage, be with my children, have wonderful friends/colleagues who support me, create art in my studio, and experience life in Big Sky country, while enjoying healthy habits.

Is life perfect? No way! Do I still have moments of frustration or self-doubt? Yes! However, I hit the reset button and consider the question that invites fulfillment and meaning to my daily life.

Your Turn

So, how would YOU answer this question, even if life is raining problems and a lack of clarity for you?

What is the next right step for me DESPITE my obstacles?

Dr. Brene Brown talks about how to have courage despite imperfections in her book, Daring Greatly. She also challenges the reader to consider what would be worth doing even if you DID fail! Shauna Niequist writes about creating a more soulful way of living in her book, Present Over Perfect. Now it is your turn.

Get quiet. Momentarily suspend distractions. Determine the next right step for you DESPITE obstacles. Listen to Spirit. You won’t regret it!

 

What to Do When You Feel Betrayed

Broken Heart Betrayal Distrust

July is a time to remember those who fought to create and preserve our freedom. We can also honor those individuals in our everyday lives who have stood up to the tyranny of self-centeredness, fought for and nurtured strong relationships. Most of us know a few individuals who choose to do what it takes to grow a marriage, a family or build a community. They often take “the road less traveled” in order for their loved ones to feel safe and that they matter.

Acts of treason and betrayal, when the United States of America was being formed, held grave consequences for those involved and our country. Betrayal in our closest relationships can incur the deepest of consequences as well. That betrayal fractures marriages, children’s growth and development, flourishing communities and ultimately our nation’s greatest resource, each other. The crippling ripple effects of our personal choices can have epidemic, world-wide results.

Dr. John Gottman, one of the most well-respected academic researchers in the field of marriage and family and author of What Makes Love Last: How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal, describes 10 ways to betray a partner in addition to sexual betrayal. He explains that relationships are built on the foundation of trust, and the erosion of trust in a relationship begins in the seemingly most insignificant of moments. You choose to turn toward your partner or away from your partner when they need you most, whether you are consciously aware or not. Choosing to turn away from someone when they need your support or attention invites distrust. They no longer trust that you will be there for them. Over time, that constant turning away develops into a sense of betrayal, and ultimately a fractured marriage that lead to divorce, even in relationships that practice fidelity. The following behaviors contribute to a sense of betrayal, according to Gottman:

  1. Conditional Commitment – The underlying attitude is “I am here for you…until something or someone better comes along.” The partner is not fully in the relationship and any incident can diminish how much intimacy and support their partner receives.
  2. A Nonsexual Affair – This relationship involves a supposedly platonic relationship that a partner would be uncomfortable watching the interactions or upset with the closeness shared.
  3. Lying – Keeping secrets or not sharing the truth in order to avoid blow-ups or arguments in order to keep the peace.
  4. Forming a Coalition Against the Partner – When a partner includes outside family or friends in decisions, constantly vents or criticizes the spouse, or aligns with their parent over their spouse regarding issues, erosion of trust prevails.
  5. Absenteeism or Coldness – Instead of sharing true feelings, the partner chooses to give the cold shoulder OR emotionally not being present for the spouse when they need support or feedback.
  6. Withdrawal of Sexual Interest – A variety of reasons for not making sex a priority can lead to a sense of betrayal. Those reasons include busyness, stress, negative body image, criticism, not feeling cherished, mismatched sex drives, or physical/medical issues. When the issues are not addressed in honest, loving ways, hurt and rejection can consume the relationship, according to Gottman.
  7. Disrespect – If a partner makes another person feel inferior, uses frequent name-calling, sarcasm or implies they have the upper hand, they are being disrespectful and creating the poison of distrust in the relationship.
  8. Unfairness – Life can be unfair, but loving, long-term relationships can be havens from injustice. Mutual satisfaction only happens when neither partner feels taken advantage of and needs/wants are met equally. For example, spending, division of labor, or how free time is spent need mutually satisfying solutions.
  9. Selfishness – Happy couples understand that, at times, each will forfeit their own needs for the common good. However, resentment occurs when selflessness is not mutual.
  10. Breaking Promises – Broken promises can include, for example, secrecy or controlling of money/resources, not aligning with a mutual value established in the beginning of a relationship (like how to practice spirituality or boundaries with in-laws) or addiction.

 

How to build trust and avoid betrayal

 

  1. Create a safe place to share honestly with each other. Avoid blindly accepting hurtful behavior, shutting down or harsh retaliation and defensiveness. Also, avoid making your partner guess what is wrong. Put your feelings into words by saying how actions make you feel.  Ask each other open-ended questions that begin with the words WHAT or HOW that invite solutions. Be open, honest and unconditionally committed to mutually sharing what you both truly want for your relationship.
  2. Practice accountability and reliability. Re-establishing trust, according to Dr. Brene Brown, research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, author and creator of the video, Anatomy of Trust, explains that individuals need to “own your mistakes, apologize and make amends as well as do what you say you are going to do consistently.”
  3. Listen deeply. Repeat what you think you heard your partner say and allow them opportunity to clarify. Refrain from choosing to hold on to your misinterpretations of their words or behaviors. Dr. Brene Brown also suggests to give your partner the most generous interpretation of their actions.
  4. Choose calm empathy. When we choose to respond calmly, our brains stay out of fight/flight/freeze mode and can problem-solve much better. Compassion and empathy are located in the pre-frontal cortex of our brain and can be accessed when calm. The prefrontal cortex also houses our ability to reach solutions. So, take a short time-out, get calm, choose empathy and you are on the road to finding solutions that work for your relationship.
  5. Get help. Enlist the help of an objective person who is trained in relationships, such as a board certified relationship coach, to help create solutions in order to move forward and align with the vision you have for your marriage.

So, embrace the challenge to build a deeper sense of trust and avoid the pitfalls of betrayal in your marriage in order to create strong relationships within your family.  Only then will you ever know the greatest opportunities for your ultimate dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of TRUE happiness!

Marriage After An Affair

Life after an Affair Marriage CoachingHow do you move forward in your marriage after an affair?

This is a question I have been asked many times as a relationship coach. I have worked with couples who decide to divorce after 20 years of marriage as well as couples who, during the coaching process, discover how to create the marriage they never had!

To move forward, couples need to consider the following after an affair….before they make the decision split or stay.

1. Understand what REALLY created the affair. Unmet emotional needs drive human behavior. For example, when a spouse does not feel like they matter to their partner, they search for significance elsewhere, such as through children, family, work or an affair. When both parties learn how to meet their own emotional needs more effectively as well as be supportive to their partner’s emotional needs, less desire to wander elsewhere occurs.

2. Consider how YOU AND YOUR SPOUSE both nurtured, poisoned or neglected the relationship. Just as a plant needs tending in order to grow, and can die from poison or neglect, so can a relationship. One partner may be poisoning the relationship with poor relationship habits, however, the other person who is shutting down or avoiding conflict is neglecting the relationship. Neglect kills plants just as much as poison! The good news is that poor relationship habits often have very little to do with the amount of love that is between the couple.

3. Decide to commit to doing the work! If you and your partner want to have a fulfilling marriage, get clear about what creates lasting change. Work with a coach to gain tools to have a different focus, a different meaning and a shift in your state of being so that you both “show up” differently in order to move forward. Just as time and attention to your career, coupled with effective work strategies, can produce success, relationships are no different. Just thinking positive or having good intentions do not produce lasting results!

4. Do what it takes to rebuild trust. Dr. John Gottman, the well-respected professor emeritus at the University of Washington, describes how building trust happens in the little moments between partners. For example, during conflict, couples can choose to turn toward their partner, instead of turning away, placing the relationship before self.

5. Forgive. (I know this one word can be taken to so many extremes and interpretations!) BOTH partners need to create a full understanding of what forgiveness REALLY encompasses AND then daily decide forgiveness of self and your partner. Blame only stifles progress toward having the marriage you want. Remember what you put out into the world will come back to you.

6. Decide what the affair means for your life. Do you choose to allow the affair to be devastation and you the victim? Or… was this affair a wake-up call for your marriage? Do you and your partner have the courage to face discomfort in order to have the marriage you both want with each other???

If you have any questions regarding the above information, or would like to create a passionately intimate marriage, feel free to contact Kim at kim@kimkompel.com. Choose true fulfillment and amazing relationships!

Domestic violence and substance abuse need additional treatment before such considerations will be safe or effective.

Ten Tips to a Happier Marriage

Every marriage experiences challenges. However, the stronger the marriage, the greater the ability to get through and grow from those life challenges. Here are ten tips for a happier, stronger marriage that can thrive despite circumstances.

  1. Notice your spouse’s positive attributes and efforts to make you happy. Choose to interpret your partner’s (imperfect) actions as ways to make you happy. Thank them for what they bring to the marriage WITHOUT saying “Thank you, but…” Most people have good intentions even when their actions miss the mark….even YOU! Appreciate your spouse more mindfully. (Warning: This skill, when learned completely, can create a real shift for marriages!!!)
  1. Let go of a “pay-back” mentality. A pay-back mentality includes actions such as withholding sex, money, affection, attention, communication. We tend to get what we put into relationships, and revenge/resentment is like poison to a relationship.
  1. Put your spouse FIRST. Avoid letting less important busy-ness get in the way of your relationship and remember that your spouse’s concerns are your concerns. When each partner mutually focus on committing to the other in an unconditional way, a much deeper love can grow.
  1. Remember your good manners or good marriage habits. Consider the manners and habits you each had when you first met. Saying ‘please’ and ‘thank-you’ as well as spending a few minutes each day connecting, bringing your spouse coffee or always ending the day with a kiss are small ways to send a BIG message that you care. Love as ACTION vs. a feeling makes for great marriages!
  1. Remember that it takes TWO people to make a relationship. In order to create a great marriage, you each have to get really honest about how YOU have contributed to the current state of affairs. Your partner may shut down but possibly due to your critical nature??? Blaming the other person keeps your relationship from moving forward. Apologize for YOUR actions and begin to see your spouse begin to make changes as well.
  1. Laugh and spend time having fun together. Sometimes what seems like a lack of passion is just a matter of spending time rediscovering why you both were attracted to each other in the first place. Increasing physical touch and affection can also recreate that connection. Giving time and attention to your relationship may be what it takes to begin to rekindle the flame and go to the next level in your marriage.
  1. Listen…without getting defensive or wanting to blame, rationalize or avoiding conflict. Really hearing what your spouse is trying to say (rather imperfectly at times) requires a commitment on your part to not engage in poor listening habits. When you become defensive, blame or try to avoid the problem so it will just go away, you are not truly hearing from a place of love, empathy and commitment.
  1. Avoid spending time with “bad examples.” Family, media, or friends who do not support a strong, loving relationship between you and your spouse may not have your best interest at heart. What emotional needs are trying to get met through others? How is that impacting your relationship?
  1. Stop criticizing and demanding your partner to change. The Pursue/Withdrawal cycle does nothing but cause frustration, resentment and further shutting down. What is the purpose of your controlling behavior? What behavior do YOU need to change?
  1. If you want a better marriage, let it begin with YOU. Waiting for your partner to do better will only lead to disappointment. Let go of false pride. The next time your interactions with your spouse go awry, hit the RESET BUTTON! Choose emotional maturity, and be the one to take the first steps to a happier marriage NOW!*

 

*Domestic violence and active alcohol/substance abuse require immediate medical attention.

 

Motivation for Today

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The following is a compilation of wisdom I have gathered from colleagues, mentors and other successful people I admire. Feel free to plaster these words somewhere in your surroundings to stay motivated toward success. Here is to….TODAY!

Get out of your own way! YOU are your only obstacle…no one or nothing else. 

Choose courage.

SMALL consistent daily actions are what REALLY lead to success.

Imperfect action is better than no action.

Reboot your fuel by taking a break to play when stressed.

Transform your “gremlin thoughts” into more empowering self talk.

Focus on creating your life with YOUR values and dreams vs. someone else’s.

Do the simplest “next step” when feeling overwhelmed.

Patiently understand success is a process not an event.

Start early with the most challenging task then the rest of the day is BONUS!

Be thankful for the life you are currently living.

Laugh, breathe deeply, wander a bit and be fully present.

Visualize your success every day. Be that person until you become that person.

Allow music to immediately shift your waning energy and negativity.

Choose compassion when you have a setback….then move on.

Reach out to others to help with energy drainers.

Gather a successful person’s wisdom. Watch a TED talk, read a book, or take a class.

 

Focus just on today……. How will you spend it???

 

 

Stop the Comparison Game!

1. Comparison is like poison to your soul. You will always be able to find someone else who is doing more, has more, etc. and dwelling on that produces negative thoughts and feelings that lead to defeat and inertia….creating more inaction that you don’t want….analysis paralysis!

2. Comparison is a stall tactic. As stated above, you become paralyzed by choosing to compare. Who in their right mind would CHOOSE to be paralyzed? Choose to embrace what you have been given as well as your life lessons, not as obstacles, but as a part of your journey.

3. In comparison, you are being ungrateful. When you compare yourself to someone else, you no longer appreciate what you have. Live in gratitude and use your strengths, talents and gifts to their fullest. You will achieve much more… much faster!

4. In comparison, you are being judgmental. If you are judgmental with yourself, you are more likely to be judgmental with others…..and who likes to be around a judgmental person!

5. Comparison is unfair. When you compare yourself to another, you compare your “worst self” to another’s best. AND, although a person may have, say,  the nicest home, how do you know what the rest of their life and relationships are about? That is comparing apples to oranges.

Stop poisoning yourself and embrace YOUR life!

“Comparison is an act of violence against the self.” -Iyanla Vanzant

Much joy and peace,

Kim

MORE Communication is NOT the Answer!: 6 Tips for a Better Relationship

Kiss lipsOften, when couples come to me, I ask, “What is the obstacle in your marriage?” The husband often says, “I can never seem to make her happy. She just wants to fight and argue.” The wife often says, “He just won’t talk with me and do chores around the house. We don’t communicate.”

The good news is that this is a very “fixable” opportunity for growth for this marriage. The bad news is that I have seen marriages become stale roommate relationships or even end up in divorce over such “fixable” matters.

The couple describes how they try to talk things out, but they just fight all the time…with the husband eventually shutting down and the wife getting more critical. They are often surprised when I ask them, “What would happen if you stopped communicating so much?” (I then hear a deafening silence over the phone.) My next question is, “How could you both enhance the quality of minimal verbal communication?” Discussion regarding what quality communication could look like in their marriage becomes the topic for the next few sessions.

Focus on the QUALITY of how you both communicate verbally/non-verbally vs. how much.

Tips for improving the quality of your communication, and ultimately, the quality of your relationship include:

1. Appreciate male and female differences in communication styles. Asking a man to sit and talk about his feelings is like asking him to poke his eyeballs out! And, women need consistent reassurance that they are loved no matter what. When a couple understands those concepts fully, strategic communication…not necessarily MORE communication can occur.

2. Change your focus. Instead of looking at how your partner is contributing to the problem, focus on how YOU are contributing to the problem and the intentions of your partner’s behavior.

3. Appreciate MORE. Focus on 75% of what comes out of your mouth be words of appreciation, acknowledgement of what your partner has done right, or words of encouragement regarding your partner’s strengths. Also, your partner may have a “nugget of truth” in their perspective of the situation. YOU may not be really “hearing” your partner as well as you could.

3. Avoid relationship poison. Criticism, defensiveness, shutting down, or snarly sarcasm/name calling verbally or non-verbally is like poison to any relationship. Keeping such behaviors to a minimum while working through a challenge

4. Think “same team”…..that you both have each other’s best interest at heart. When relationships hit rough waters, partners often begin taking their partner’s behaviors personally. Realize your partner behaves in certain ways for lots of reasons. Then you will stop over-reacting and making the problem worse. Ask the question, “How can WE make this situation better?”

5. Change your habits. SHOW how much you want this relationship to be a happy one by YOUR actions and habits. When couples begin to understand that the majority of communication is in the habits and actions CHOSEN to give the relationship, more progress toward a better relationship is made.

6. Let go of control. Sometimes one or both partners think communicating “their way” is the best or only way to solve the problem. Often, with the help of a relationship coach or someone more objective, other options can be considered.

So….MORE communication or even BETTER VERBAL communication is not always the answer. What YOU THINK and DO DIFFERENTLY vs. what you say can have the greatest impact on relationship outcomes!

(Other actions are necessary if you are married to a chronic cheater, a person addicted to alcohol/drugs or gambling, or a person who is physically abusive.)

Much joy and peace,

Kim