7 Simple Personal Growth Lessons I’ve Learned In The Past 7 Years

As my life swirled out of control upon the end of my marriage, house and career, I fell into a state of hopelessness and despair. “What is the point of it all?” I asked myself. “What even matters?” I wondered. “Is there life after heartbreak and loss?” I pondered.

Getting out of bed was difficult. I found myself in tears more than I had at any point in my life. The tsunami of personal, emotional and financial failure was overwhelming! It was also my life’s greatest wake-up call.

Since that time 7 years ago, I’ve done everything I can to regain a grip on my life. After reading hundreds of books; reflecting for hundreds of hours with therapists, coaches and healers; writing thousands of words and implementing dozens of life hacks, here’s what I’ve discovered.

Although it came with much pain, suffering and tears, I’ve distilled my life’s biggest learnings into these 7 lessons.

These are 7 simple personal growth lessons I’ve learned in the past 7 years.

1. The insides matter more than the outsides.

We spend almost all our younger lives focused on building our careers and providing for ourselves as adults. We are busy either making money or learning a trade to make us money. There’s nothing wrong with being able to support ourselves but this focus does ignore everything else that matters. Professional and financial success matter but how about emotional resiliency, interpersonal relationships and self-worth? The latter matter much more but we don’t spend any time developing these qualities.

I’ve learned that the insides matter more; this is your operating system that determines the quality of your life.

Learning to be in touch with your emotions, to pick yourself up after falling and to develop healthy relationships with people is what matters for long-term happiness and success.

2. Habits trump dreams.

People tell you to have dreams and follow them. You revisit your dreams during the new year and maybe a couple other times in January. You set some goals and intention for the year but all of this quickly falls away. People tell you to visualize your dreams and write them down.

None of this is effective.

If you truly want to achieve your dreams, you must focus on daily habits. Daily habits are vehicles that will move you closer to your dreams. A simple check-off of daily tasks you accomplish over a long period of time will get you much closer to your dreams than will audacious dreams.

Small, doable habits you accomplish every day beat tricky and complicated habits you have no motivation for.

3. Less is more.

We fill our lives with so much crap. We look for better housing, better jobs, better relationships, better vacations, better cars, better friends, better partners, better things.

We spend all our time bringing more into our lives.

However, I’ve found that the opposite is true for personal growth.

You must get rid of the stuff in your life. You must lower the number of people filling your life. You must let go of the career or job that is overwhelming you.

Create space to breathe.

Fill your life with what truly matters to you.

4. Busyness is over-rated.

Along the same lines, people in the West are addicted to staying busy.

You’re too busy to take care of yourself, too busy for your health, too busy for your sanity.

People take pride in filling their schedules and lives to the brim. Busyness isn’t cool.

Busyness is for people running on the treadmill of social pressures and pursuing external achievements.

Create more time for yourself so you can do what you really want to do. Don’t be a slave to time.

5. Today matters more than yesterday.

After failure and loss, we want to stay in the past.

You know why?

Because that’s where we are most comfortable.

It’s like knowing the end of a movie. You would rather watch or be in a movie whose ending you know rather than be in a movie you have no clue about.

We would rather be comfortable in the certainty of our past than venture out into an unknown future.

However, this comes at the expense of our lives today.

If you live looking backwards, you’re robbing yourself of what today holds. Live for today; appreciate what’s in front of you. Be mindful of what you’re experiencing and imagine today is the only day you have left.

Live more, reminisce less.

6. Intuition and values are your GPS.

We spend much of our lives focusing on what other people think of us.

I did this for the longest time … until my life fell apart.

When I had nothing else to lose and everyone thought I was heading down the wrong path, I gave up on what everyone thought.

As the black sheep of any community or culture, you have tools to guide you – tools that you never rely on.

Most of your life, people have used loud noises and chatter to drown out your intuition.

You’ve never learned that your values rule your life.

Spend some time getting a better understanding of your gut feeling, your intuition.

How do you listen to it? How does it speak to you?

Also, discover what your values are.

What are your life priorities? What matters to you? How do you find meaning?

Spend the rest of your days both aligning with your intuition and making decisions according to your values.

7. You don’t have to wait to be happy.

You don’t have to achieve x, y, z to be happy.

You don’t have to hit a certain career point or find that special someone to be happy.

Often, we wait our entire lives to be happy. Why not be happy today?

I’ve concluded that happy is as happy does.

You don’t have to wait some day for happiness. Start figuring out what makes you happy today and do that. To be happy, you don’t have to move, marry, get a raise, succeed in your business or get that degree.

Look for the simple pleasures in life that trigger happiness in you; a walk, a pet, a phone call, a visit with a friend, a date, a movie, giving back, cooking your favorite dish, picking up a new hobby.

Do whatever lights your soul on a daily basis.

Schedule it to get daily shots of happiness.

For more personal growth lessons and insights, check out my books at the Amazon store here.

Win the Hearts of Indian Parents and Marry Your Indian Partner

You’re in a bit of an Indian parent masala.

Your boyfriend is Indian and you’re not. (Unfortunately, your partner’s parents are Indian as well!?)

You had dreamy hopes of marrying him and living happily ever after.

The only problem is that your partner hails from that part of the world known as South Asia: primarily India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan or Bhutan.

If you’ve fallen in love with an Indian guy or dating someone from one of these South Asian countries, your life is about to turn upside down.

You found a brilliant, well-educated, polite and devoted guy but…you had no idea this wonderful person came from an overly-protective, slightly judgmental, and hostile family.

In fact, your partner’s Indian parents are likely neurotic, hate the idea of their son dating you and will do everything in their power to sabotage this relationship.

Would Indian parents actually go to this extreme? You betcha!

You will face an emotionally manipulative and aggressive force like no other: the Indian mom and dad.

It’s nothing personal. It’s just that they didn’t work hard, come to this country with 15 cents in their pockets and put their kids through Ivy League schools for those kids to marry you!

You may have initially thought that Indian parents were slightly protective and uncertain of you but now that you’ve gotten to know them, you’re no longer naïve about what’s at stake.

Indian parents (and most South Asian parents) are against intercultural or interracial marriages. They will do whatever it takes to end the relationship between you and their son (including espionage, private investigators, blackmail and criminal threats).

You are realizing the full emotional and psychological battle facing you.

Indian parents will make your dating and potential marriage with your Indian boyfriend very challenging. Your partner is supportive and helpful but you need advice and guidance to deal with the volcano known as Indian parents.

Luckily for you, a guide is available to help. Today, I’m releasing a book called, How to Get Indian Parents to Accept Your Marriage Proposal.

It’s a basic, straightforward guide to understanding the mindset of Indian parents – and to outmaneuvering and outsmarting them so you can have your big, fat Indian wedding.

If you’re not Indian but dating an Indian man (or woman), this one-of-a-kind book will help you understand the Indian cultural mindset and overcome the Indian parents standing between you and the relationship you desire.

The book contains 14 chapters filled with pearls of wisdom and practical-action steps that will help you move your partner’s Indian parents from “hell no” to “fine, ok, whatever.”

Here are the 14 chapter titles of How to Get Indian Parents to Accept Your Marriage Proposal:

  1. Introduction 
  2. What do Indian parents really want other than diamonds and landed property? 
  3. Why are Indian parents against interracial/intercultural marriages and you? 
  4. What extreme measures will Indian parents take to stop you from dating their offspring? 
  5. How should your rational partner talk about your relationship to her slightly neurotic Indian parents? 
  6. How do you take a strategic approach to get the blessings of Indian parents without losing your mind or your Indian partner? 
  7. What is the secret to acceptance into Indian culture without having to be reborn as an Indian person in your next life? 
  8. How should you treat Indian parents to get their appreciation and approval instead of their scorn and hate? 
  9. Another laundry list of ideas to receive marital blessings from your partner’s Indian parents as they put you through the washing machine of life. 
  10. How can you meet, converse with and socialize with the enemy and turn Indian parents into allies? 
  11. How are your sanity and other things more important than your relationship with Indian parents? 
  12. How do you deal with hostile and hurtful Indian parents who tell you to go fly a kite? 
  13. What if your partner is considering a big fat Indian wedding without you? 
  14. May the Gita and the Force Be With You

What if your partner is considering a big, fat Indian wedding without you?

If you’re seeking approval and blessings so you can marry your Indian or South Asian partner, this is the guide for you.

Pick up How to Get Indian Parents to Accept Your Marriage Proposal today.

Use the book’s strategies – and be sure to put me on the guest list if they work and you have a big, fat Indian wedding.

I’ll be checking the mail for my wedding invite!

Get How to Get Indian Parents to Accept Your Marriage Proposal today.

How to Talk to Indian Parents about Marrying Someone From a Different Culture

(If you’re looking for my book on How to Get Indian Parents to Accept Your Marriage Proposal, get it here.)

Talking to Indian parents about love and marriage is different than it is in other cultures.

You don’t simply approach your parents and tell them you’ve fallen for the love of your life and the love of your life is…white or Asian or Latino.

The way to put your life in further jeopardy is to claim your undying love for your long-term American beau, insist you’ve made up your mind and boldly proclaim that you will marry only this man of your dreams!

If you’ve fallen in love with someone from a culture outside of your Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi or South Asian family, your relatives will quickly respond.

This response will likely range from complete silence to utter anger and disgust.

Many Indian parents will be in complete shock about your decision and your declaration of love.

Indian people do not believe in marrying for love. Also, they do not believe in marrying non-Indian people.

So, if you’re Indian and you must break the news to your non-Indian parents that you’re marrying an American or westerner, fasten your seat belt and prepare for the passive-aggressive journey you’re about to begin. Get ready for the emotional and psychological battles that are about to ensue.

If you have fallen for an American guy or girl, here is what you must know about how to break the news to your parents.

Getting your parents’ approval will be an uphill battle. Here is what you should keep in mind when preparing for the lengthy battle ahead.

Despite the odds, stay optimistic and follow this strategy to get your Indian parents to accept your boyfriend of girlfriend from a different culture.

A 16-point plan to talk to your parents and get them to accept your non-Indian boyfriend of girlfriend follows.

1. Break the news slowly and over several conversations to help your parents deal with it. This might be the most devastating news they hear in their lives, so understand that they need some time to process it. Give them a few details at a time; limit your revelations when you first break the news to them.

2. Prime them for the conversation. Slowly introduce the topic of your getting serious with someone else or marrying someone who is non-Indian. Do not speak assertively or with certainty. Bring it up as a concept first; introduce the idea as if you are contemplating it with them. See how much they push back each time. If the situation quickly gets hot and intense, change topics and bring it up another day.

3. Do not react as emotionally as your parents do. These initial conversations will likely be intense and hard for your parents, and they will likely say hurtful things. Be aware of what’s coming up. Do not use this time to fight back with the same negativity or insults.

4. In the first conversation, do not die for love. This means do not say this relationship is “do or die.” Do not say you’re going to die for love: “It’s this man or woman or no one else.” Do not make bold and outlandish statements about your love for this person. Do not come across as a lovesick puppy or withering Romeo who will put his life on the line for this non-Indian woman. Tone down your declarations of love and keep things fluid. Take the attitude that anything can happen in life. This marriage may or may not be in your future. Give your parents some time to take it all in and cope.

5. Listen intently to what your parents say. Without a doubt, your parents will have much to say. Instead of coming up with defenses against each response they make, hear them out. Spend more time listening instead of convincing. By speaking, your parents are processing. By listening, you are gathering information.

6. Use every argument as a means of collecting strategic information. Take notes if you must. One day, you can use everything your parents say. They may sound angry and disappointed but they are essentially scared, so use the first few conversations to fully understand where they are coming from and what their fears are. Gather strategic information so you can formulate a plan of attack with your partner!

7. Be on a fact-finding mission to discover what each of your parents is worried about. Each parent will speak a different language and use different words to tell you what lies behind his or her fears. Like a reporter, collect as much information as you can. Then spend the next few months formulating a strategy for convincing them. Reporters don’t yell back or challenge their subjects. They give their interview subjects plenty of time to relax and vent their true feelings and fears.

8. Treat each parent as an individual. Speak to each parent separately. Each will have his or her own quirks, opinions and fears. The more you can divide them and have separate conversations with them, the better your chance of understanding what each one fears.

9. Make strides to address each of their concerns. Over the coming weeks and months, you will know what to focus on. If they are afraid of religious or food incompatibility, make the case to them. If they are afraid of what other people will think, let them know about people who approve of your relationship. Discover their concerns so you can address them.

10. Look for allies within the family and community. Your parents may want to keep the news within your immediate family because of their shame and embarrassment; however, you will benefit by sharing your relationship with people outside your immediate family. You will help the extended family cope and possibly find supporters outside of your parents. You may also find other people in the community whose children married non-Indian people. Definitely bring them into the picture and get them involved. Your parents win in silence and secrecy. The more people who know, the more you’re helping break the taboo and discomfort over sharing this news with others.

11. Help your non-Indian partner educate himself or herself about Indian culture. The more your partner molds himself or herself to the culture, including learning your scriptures and language, the better. What does your family value and prioritize in the Indian culture? Food? Religion? Parenting? Language? Education? Whatever it is, get your partner up to speed. This will help alleviate your parents’ fears. Your parents want to feel as comfortable as possible with your partner because they believe they might be living with you in their older age, and they don’t want to live with a foreigner who doesn’t understand them.

12. Be prepared for psychological and emotional warfare. If you’re expecting it, your parents’ reaction won’t traumatize or shock you. Your parents will try every conceivable method to scare you, hurt you and blackmail you into submission. They will feign health issues, threaten you, disown you, never speak to you again. If you realize they are using these tactics out of fear, you can better cope with the emotional warfare.

13. Use time to your advantage. The more time you have and the longer you drag this out, the better. Your parents will need time to process the news. You are changing generations of a thought process they have believed their entire lives. This is all they know. Give them time to process and to learn about other people and families that have gone through the same thing. They may be going through a grieving process, so expect them to experience all the steps of grief before they arrive in a rational place to accept your decision.

14. Highlight the practical advantages of this particular partner. Indian parents care about respect of their family, religion and culture, as well as about financial stability. You know this, so your task over the next few months is to provide rational reasons why this relationship makes sense. Try to show how Indian-like – or “Indian-lite” – your partner is, even if your partner is not Indian. If your partner is well-educated and has educational or career plans, highlight that fact. If he or she come from a traditional culture or a stable family background (i.e., parents who are still married), highlight that fact. If your partner’s parents are wealthy and have family property, definitely highlight that fact! If your partner has attended church his or her whole life and comes from a religious family, highlight that fact as long as your partner is open to participating in your religious traditions, too.

15. Use compassion and kindness to alleviate your parents’ fears. Your parents will act irrationally out of anger and fear. Responding to them the same way will not help. You must speak with kindness and listen with compassion despite their every tantrum, hurtful statement and blackmail attempt. If you want to make this work, you must find that inner strength to be rational, kind and reasonable. Essentially, you must be the opposite of your parents; you must show them that you have thought this through and that you are not being irrational or disrespectful. This is a case in which kindness and understanding (of what they are experiencing) can help you all get to marital bliss – ok, at least acceptance.

16. Clearly state your intentions and desires. After some time has passed, you can let your parents know that you are serious about this relationship. Now that they have had time to digest and process the news, you can state unequivocally that you are interested in this person as your life partner – and not only are you interested in this person, you’re going to marry him or her. Say this calmly, with certainty and confidence. You stand on the strength of your relationship and the confidence of your partner. More than that, you stand in your own power of knowing what you want and what’s right for you.

If you have more questions about this topic, pick up my book, How to Get Indian Parents to Accept Your Marriage Proposal, here.

The book is a guide to help your non-Indian boyfriend or girlfriend understand Indian culture, outsmart your Indian parents and marry you.

18 Unhealthy and Kooky Myths about Indian Divorce

Unlike Indian divorce, our marriages involve so much pomp, celebration and joy.

Color, jewelry, family, food, elaborate and exotic celebrations.

Our marriages create happy tears and celebrate love. They involve so many traditions, so much culture and sentimentality.

Indian culture CAN handle death well too.

We have respectful ways of mourning and celebrating dead relatives. We have done this for generations. We have rituals, remembrances, memorials, ceremonies galore. We have Ganges River cremations that leave a permanent imprint on the souls of the mourners. We know what to say, what to do and how soon to complete each step.

We can die and mourn the dead like no one else can.

Indian divorce, on the other hand, is a whole other story.

While we have mastered marriage and even death, we are terrible at divorce.

Indian divorce scares Indians, even if divorce is on the rise throughout the Indian community. This has made my own divorce difficult to manage and cope with.

Imagine you’re going through the most stressful experience of your life and the people you love most are isolating and shaming you because of it.

People run from you like you have Valley Fever, the mumps or Ebola. Indian divorce is filled with shame and stigma.

To the normal and rational person, the theories and myths Indians perpetuate about divorce are nutty and odd.

If you think you’re going through a bad divorce, consider Indian divorce and feel a little better about your situation.

18 unhealthy and kooky myths about Indian divorce:

1. You’re at fault.

It doesn’t matter what happened or who did what. You’re at fault. You caused this divorce because of your behavior, your attitude, or your plain and simple desire to bring great shame to your family. No one in your inner circle cares about the reason or rationale. Keep your excuses and your tears to yourself, mate. No matter what you say, you’re the one who caused this divorce.

2. You can’t “adjust”.

You were stubborn and bull-headed growing up. Speaking to you was like speaking to a wall. No one could convince you to do anything then and, sure enough, your partner can’t rationalize with you now. You refused to listen, to compromise, to give in and give way. Your family is convinced that not only are you the problem but you can never change your stubborn character or strong opinions.

3. You’re an alcoholic, wife beater or cheater.

If you’re a man divorcing, you’re definitely going to hear that you are one of these things. You either drank, beat your wife or cheated on her. Having a drink at a holiday party will make you a drunk. Covering your body as your partner throws dishes at you will make you an abuser. Talking to another woman – any woman, be she a colleague, supervisor or friend – will make you a lying, cheating demon.

4, You’re sleeping around with other men, most likely an ex-lover.

If you’re a woman, more than likely you are getting a divorce because you are still in love with an ex-lover. You married your current husband only so you could get to America or Canada, where your previous lover was waiting for you. If not one lover, you have many. Your insatiable appetite for sex OR your lack of desire for sex led to the divorce!

5. It’s the woman’s fault.

If you’re a woman, no matter what happened, it’s your fault. You are the divorce-initiator, home-wrecker, reputation-ruiner. You’re the outcast.

You had the power, ability and wisdom to give in, adjust, compromise and make it work. You chose not to make any adjustments because you wanted to punish your poor parents. Your divorce is simply a way to get back at your family, who raised you with love and affection.

Oh, and not only is your parents’ happiness gone but your dad’s chest has been hurting of late. You might be the reason why he develops heart issues, diabetes or any other health condition within the next 20 years.

6. You married only for the green card.

This is not a joke. This is probably the first reason I hear when anyone in the Indian community gets a divorce in America. Oh, she married him for the green card. She married him to get to America. Once she achieved her American dream, she let go of her marital nightmare. Marriage was just a way to get what she wanted. A marriage certificate until citizenship certificate. When you get one, you let go of the other.

7. Your karma is at fault.

You were likely a royal torturer in your past life. You raped and pillaged cities and countries. In your former life you were a terrible human being, the lowest of the low, and you were reborn as you in this life. Now you are going to pay for your past sins. You were so bad in your last life, you were likely a lawyer, dictator, murderer or evil-monger of some sort. What goes around comes around.

8. Your fate is at fault.

You’re cursed and your fate is the reason why you brought suffering upon yourself. This isn’t so much karma (which you can do something about) but fate (which you have no control over). The Gods have written your life story and determined that you are going to suffer. They pre-destined you to live a lonely, sad, depressed and tragic existence. They have cursed you with a contentious, non-mutual consent Indian divorce! You have no hope and no future. Lunch, anyone?

9. Your astrology and your time are at fault.

You got married at the wrong time, an inauspicious time. Neither you nor your parents listened to the temple priest, pandit or family astrologer regarding the right time and day to have your marriage. Therefore, the Gods have cursed you. Also, it wasn’t the right time in your life to get married. You were in your cursed and inauspicious 7-year circle, when the demons were out for your head. Of course this marriage didn’t last. When you ignore the stars and the Gods, you’re on your own.

10. You didn’t marry the person your parents wanted for you.

How can anyone trust you to find someone? Why did you think your own decisions would be the right ones? If you’re going to start doing wild things and thinking for yourself, you deserve the consequences of your decisions. If you had married the nice boy from the orthodox and wealthy family your parents had desired for you, everything would have worked out fine. If you had listened to them, you would have succeeded. Because you didn’t heed their advice and marital selection, you’re doomed and will fail at everything you do.

11. Your divorce is contagious.

Your behavior and actions will influence anyone who crosses your path, especially people who are getting married. Your rebellious nature, your disrespect of tradition and culture, your hatred of the patriarchy will not only doom you but spread these ideas to anyone who crosses your path. People in your life, especially those who love you or claim they do, will ensure that you have no contact with the innocent, the single, the ambitious or the good. They will keep you in a cell, away from productive and good people.

12. You’re a bad omen.

The rain falls, the stock market tanks and all the calamities you or your family now face are because of your bad omen. You are the cause of that drought, hurricane or terrible agricultural season. Sorry to say but you’re bad luck to all those you come in contact with. If someone is betting, they should stay away from you. If someone is celebrating an engagement or a baby, they should stay away from you. If someone is walking down the street, they should travel on the other side so a bus doesn’t hit them.

13. Your family didn’t raise you correctly.

While your family will blame you for your divorce, don’t fear. There’s plenty of blame to pass around. For example, everyone else you’ve loved, known or trusted your entire life will blame your family for raising such a useless, destructive and rebellious child. People will begin to wonder about the mental health and parenting skills of the parents of divorcees. You will become a bad reflection of yourself and your family, your culture and your community. If there were an Indian hall of shame, you would have a prominent place in it.

14. Your family members can’t show themselves in public.

Every person your family sees in public will take a swipe at you … or so your parents believe. Every question about you will lead to more shame and resentment. Your parents, and possibly your extended family, will tire of their association with you, tire of answering questions about you and tire of hearing your name. You live far away and don’t have to see the community and people you’ve known your whole life. They, on the other hand, must remain in solitary confinement, hiding from the people and places they’ve known and visited their entire lives.

15. You’re a bad example.

You must remain locked up and far away from younger siblings, nephews, nieces, cousins and all impressionable people. Others might notice your wicked ways and get strange ideas about divorce or being happy. Per your karma and fate, you must suffer in misery rather than find happiness. You got married for your family and must make all life decisions for your family. You shouldn’t set bad examples for future generations. We need mentors, academic superstars, spelling bee champions and heart surgeons … not divorcees.

16. You’ll live in abject poverty and sadness and die alone.

Our parents really do believe this about our lives after divorce. If the best potential partner for us, our former spouses, could reject us, who else could possibly want us? You are destined to live in sadness, and in that sadness you will find loneliness. In that loneliness, you will find poverty – either material, emotional or spiritual. Your world, as you know it, is over.

The rest of the world will be happy, celebrate festivals, buy gold and watch Bollywood movies but you will not. You will be sad, depressed and regretful, and will live in misery.

17. The only thing worse than what you’ve already done is therapy.

Nope, not only are we not going to support you and be there for you in your darkest hour, we want to let you know loud and clear that we don’t want you to seek additional help. Please don’t shame us more by getting a therapist and talking to a bunch of nutty mental health people. That’s a Western thing, and we don’t do it. You’re not as crazy as we think you are. Well, you are crazy but don’t go to a therapist and prove it to everyone else. Let us preserve some dignity and respect. Don’t visit a therapist and confirm to us that you’re a nut job.

18. Your only hope for redemption is … another marriage.

You have caused us so much shame and suffering. You have embarrassed your family, your community, your ancestors and your country! You have only one way to redeem yourself: a second marriage (Shaadi.com, please) You can continue to be the disappointment and failure that you are or you can say “I do” to the partner we choose and get married on the date we pick.

Now, who’s ready for a big fat small lonely Indian divorce?

For my books on healing from heartbreak and divorce, visit my Amazon link here.

*Photo credit

How to Stay Married (even after the wedding)

I wondered out loud last week how couples stay married, after tying the knot.

I theorized that it’s easy to be in a good relationship when dating but there’s a serious plot twist after marriage.

The chase is more enticing than the catch.

The journey is richer than the destination.

The engagement is juicier than the wedding.

Prior to marriage, you’re fighting for the relationship and to stay together.

Post marriage, you take the relationship for granted.

I reached out to you for insight and thoughts about how to stay married when the sizzle of the wedding day is gone and all that’s left is writing thank you notes, paying the wedding photographer and oh yeah, living a lifetime together.

It was Ambrose Bierce who defined marriage this way, “love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage.”

So, what’s the deal? How do you stay together when you have to stay together?

How do you stay together when you are bound by wedding vows and traditions? How do you stay together in the container known as marriage?

9 Wise Ways to Stay Together Even After Marriage

1.You stay friends first.

Simply because you exchange rings or garlands, doesn’t mean you have to change the dynamics of your relationship. The best partners are best friends first. The best couples remember that they are first friends, and then spouses. You are more likely to maintain and build upon relationships you have with friends. You are more likely to give your friends the benefit of doubt.

2. You marry each other to enhance your lives, not complete your lives.

Couples that stay together are each rooted in their own power and their own self-worth. You can’t have a partner to complete you or fill in the missing pieces. Contrary to popular romance fiction and Bollywood movies, you are not complete just because you have a partner. If you place your happiness or completeness in another person, you’re at the mercy of their behavior and actions.

3. You accept each other unconditionally.

When dating, you find your partner’s quirks and flaws cute and charming. In marriage, you feel like you want to choke your partner for not being the person you want them to be. Married couples that survive marriage realize you can’t change your partner. Only your partner can change your partner and only you can change yourself. You each accept each other for who you are, quirks and all.

4. You don’t expect your partner to meet all of your needs.

It’s high pressure to expect your marriage partner to be everything in your life; friend, mentor, counselor, lover, coach, motivator, therapist, etc. You may get most of your needs met from one person but don’t expect this one person to replace all the other people in your life. It’s healthy and normal to have a support system of friends, family and your partner in your life.

5. You don’t take each other for granted.

This means you value, prioritize and care for each other. You don’t take your partner for granted. You still ask, make requests and honor their opinions and choices. You don’t expect them to do things because they are your partner. You make time for each other even if you’re both super busy and you continue to work on the relationship. You don’t allow the relationship to turn into one of default and convenience.

6. You let small things be small things.

Prior to marriage, you’re willing to give your partner the benefit of the doubt and be more forgiving. After marriage, you take every small thing and blow it out of proportion. For healthier post-marriage relationships, keep things in perspective. Your partner did not intentionally hurt you or try to ruin your life. S/he could have been forgetful, inconsiderate or careless. An act of daily forgiveness can help smooth over much of the conflicts that arise in the course of a relationship.

7. You keep your egos in check.

When you don’t have something (like a spouse), you tend to be more understanding, forgiving and accepting. But once you have something in your life (like a marriage certificate) you tend to default to entitlement and be filled with expectations. You turn from a place of humility to a place of ego. You go from requesting to demanding, from asking to directing, from extending forgiveness to demanding perfection. Healthy relationships manage egos and flourish from a place of compassion and humility.

8. You practice the art of saying what you want.

You’re much more apt at saying what you want before marriage than after marriage. Before marriage, you seek to be understood and want to understand your partner. You inquire, clarify, ask and communicate what it is that you want. Unfortunately, often times after marriage, you might expect your partner to know things without communicating it. You expect and demand your partner to do something without informing them of what this. Health marriages work on healthy communication. You practice saying what you want and asking for what you need.

9. You live in the present

One way to build and maintain a healthy relationship is to stay in the present moment. It’s easy to always cite past grudges and disagreements in the present. It’s easy to use phrases like “you never” or “you always” in reference to what is happening today. Healthy relationships post marriage don’t try to link the present with the past. You live, fight, and love for today.

For more tips on making marriage work, visit this book review post on the 7 Principles of Making Marriage Work by John Gottman. 

Is Marriage the Beginning of the End?

marriage Some people are good at relationships.

They grew up in healthy environments with happy parents.

They learned to be emotionally mature and resilient in the face of hardship.

They learned how to value and prioritize relationships.

One of these relationships bloomed into marriage, which they water with communication, compromise and commitment.

Yet for many of us, and again, many reading Vishnu’s Virtues, relationships are not a smooth ride.

Marriages didn’t work out. Long-term relationships ended.

You were so good at dating and even living together, but your relationship came to a crashing halt the day you got married.

What’s the deal, you’re wondering to yourself?

Why was the relationship sizzling with passion and the marriage, drizzling with anger and bitterness?

Why is marriage the place good relationships go to die?

Why did our pre-marriage life work so well but our post-marriage life, lead to divorce?

Why was I flying across the world to visit my ex, speaking to her daily on Skype and planning our future together pre-marriage?

While we were constantly talking about ending, challenging each other and seeing how different we were from each other after marriage?

The answer is very simply taking people for granted.

See, in your pre-marriage, dating life, you’re fighting for the person.

You value the person, you overlook their flaws, you extend an ocean-full of compassion to your partner.

You give them the benefit of the doubt and forgive the person easily.

You are fighting for the relationship and the person’s heart.

Yet the very day you exchange rings, exchange garlands (in India) or exchange vows, it all changes.

Before the ink even dries on the marriage certificate, your relationship changes.

It goes from wanting to be together, fighting for each other and the excitement of the chase to …marriage.

All of a sudden, the person you’ve been chasing and pursuing transitions from the object of your affection, passion and interest becomes just another person in your life.

Overnight and over the course of a ceremony, you tend to transition from grateful to taking the person you’re with for granted.

Are marriages the place that relationships go to die?

How do you keep the sizzle of the dating and the excitement of the pursuit, post marriage?

How do you stay committed, passionate and interested after your nuptials?

How do you not take marriage for granted?

How do you value the person you’re in a relationship with even after the caterer has left, the thank-you cards have gone out and the ink on the marriage certificate has dried?

I’m curious what you think and going to come back next week with a round-up of answers from you, dear reader.

How do you make the relationship last after your wedding day?

How do you value your partner after you tie the knot?

I’m looking for your responses to write my follow-up post so please email me through my Contact page or hit reply to this email with thoughts on how you value relationships post-marriage.

How to Overcome the Fear of Being Single

Photo credit @savwalts

One of the biggest fears when you go through a breakup is that you’ll never be with someone again.

This will terrify you. It’ll cause you to lose many nights of sleep and go into a deep depression.

You’ll believe that no one will ever love you again, that everyone else with reject you and that all future relationships will end in failure, possible murder and tragedy.

You’re terrified of being alone because you’ll shame your parents and feel like a failure.

You’re scared of being alone because all your friends are in relationships and getting hitched. They’re hiring videographers, sending out wedding invitations and working on seating arrangements.

Or, most likely, this is the only picture you had imagined for your life. I mean, you had read about this story growing up. You had always believed that you would marry and settle down, and you were doing everything in your power to materialize this life.

Yet it’s not panning out that way.

You broke up…again.

You got divorced…again.

You’re alone again and struggling to make sense of life. You’re terrified about what the future will be because you planned for no other future.

Can I get an Amen?

Hold up, people.

Or person reading this.

Hold the &)@&)# up.

Let me tell you a story all about how…my life got flipped turned upside down…I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, let me tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel Air.

Oops, wrong story.

Let me take a minute to tell you that I was at a party – an Indian party with many married men.

The topic of wives came up and, interestingly, I heard a very comfortable, knowing and shared sentiment from everyone, though no one said a word.

The feeling wasn’t joy and universal acclaim.

It was something along the lines of “we’ve settled, we’re trapped and we can’t say anything.”

“Marriage isn’t the worst thing to happen to me but it’s not the best, either. I could have gone after my dreams and lived a great life but this ain’t that bad either. We got a house, kids and retirement.”

I felt a sense of gloom and doom and a tinge of sadness. I also felt giddy that the tables had turned.

I was the one who should have felt ashamed, alone and unhappy. My life had gone so far off course that I couldn’t relate to a single person at that party but I was the happiest lad in the room.

What gives?

Let me break it down for you, friends.

You don’t have to be afraid of being single. You don’t have to be afraid of your future. You don’t have to be afraid of filing your taxes single or being the solo RSVP for any party! 

You can overcome the fear of being single and the fear of being a cat lady and the fear of being a lonely old man by…drum roll, please…

1. Loving yourself.

Loving yourself means treating yourself like you would treat someone you truly love. It’s the way you speak to yourself, the way you mentally judge yourself and how much you criticize yourself. It’s the way you treat your body and emotions.

I’ve written at length about how to love yourself, including in my books, Self Romance Manifesto and Love Yourself After Heartbreak.

A practice to love yourself and get comfortable being single is to treat yourself like you were in a relationship. Where would you go? What would you do? Which friends would you hang out with along with your significant other?

Live that love life even without the love from someone else.

Love yourself by loving your life and living it to the maximum.

2.Learning about yourself.

You have no idea who you are because you’ve spent most of your life believing that you need other people. You believe that you are your family. You are your partner. You are your relationship status.

News flash … you’re you. You may have no idea what that even is, but now it’s your responsibility and life purpose to figure out who you are.

(I have a couple of ideas about discovering yourself. If you would like a free guide on how to find yourself, sign up for my blog and I’ll send you a free ebook about finding and being yourself.)

Your job now is to discover your preferences, opinions, choices and purpose. It is to ask yourself what makes you happy and what you want out of life.

3.Cutting out the nonsense and noise.

The people around you often make the situation worse by putting more pressure on you or making you more scared than you already are.

They have their own agendas and reasons for intervening in your life.

If you’re getting a divorce in the Indian or Asian community, the people around you must salvage reputations and save face.

Your family could care less about you; they care more about the family name.

Keep the negativity and intervenors at bay.

You’re already hearing a lot of internal noise and negative chatter. You don’t need more from the outside world.

Stay hyper-vigilant about your inner circle. Make sure they are supportive and encouraging and that they help you feel more at ease.

4.Cultivating happiness and community.

You don’t have to wait until you’re in a relationship to be happy.

Let me repeat that: you don’t have to wait until you’re in a relationship to be happy.

You can find happiness today.

Your task is to cultivate happiness. If you have no idea how to do that and think you’ll need years of therapy from Dr. Freud himself, try this.

Do things that make you happy and that don’t destroy your health or well-being.

That rules out hard drugs, hard liquor and hard men. It includes simple pleasures, your favorite activities and new adventures.

If you don’t know what will make you happy, just get active and do something.

Get out of the house; stop wallowing in the sadness of loneliness.

5.Cultivating community.

This simply means doing things with other people.

You can ride your bicycle by yourself or join a cycling group.

You can read a book by yourself or join a book club.

You don’t have to go it alone.

Create situations where you’re around people and feeling less alone. Look for people you can do things with.

6.Giving back.

You may hate people and the pursuit of happiness and community.

Fine.

May I suggest giving back in some way, shape or form?

It’s weird but something is addictive about giving back.

Why do you think I write this blog? 99% percent of the people who read it do so at no cost and with no obligation whatsoever.

I spend half my life, it feels like, writing for this blog and other publications.

Why?

Because I enjoy sharing and giving… Giving back gives me immense pleasure.

The other 1% of people buy my books (which you can do here) or hire me for coaching (which you can do here).

7. Having balance.

If you’re working 24/7, you won’t have time for anything else.

If you’re completely occupying yourself, you have no space for all the parts of your life to flourish.

You must prioritize your down time and eliminate activities that don’t fulfill you.

Then you can create balance and down time to allow friendships to blossom, to allow yourself to socialize and date.

If you’re interested in another relationship, you must make the time and space for it.

Someone else will enter your life only if you make time for them. If you want a relationship, you must prioritize relationships.

8. Living with courage and hope.

You must exercise courage every day. You must find the courage to live without the fear of the unknown and the fear of uncertainty.

Yes, living by yourself is scary but you’re the captain of your ship and you’re in control of your life.

You had the courage to be in relationships and survive breakups in the past. Now you can survive without a relationship.

You can live courageously while being hopeful about a new relationship.

Back up the hope with action. You can’t hope your way to a new relationship. Get online. Go out. Volunteer. Get active in the community. Live your life and be open to meeting people who are potential partners.

9.Creating the life you want.

You’re waiting until you find that special someone to start living the life you want.

I propose starting that life today. No, you won’t be able to have kids and a family, but these days adoption and surrogacy make these options possible.

You can start living the life you want. You can go after the career you want. You can pursue the dreams you want. Start the business you want. Help the people you want. Travel to the countries you want.

You don’t have to wait until someday because that someday may never come.

Create the life you want today. Have a vision for your ideal life and start on it. A partner can enhance it but doesn’t have to be a critical component for you to get started.

Check on my books on self-love and self-acceptance at the Amazon store here.

How to Make Marriage Work

Photo by John Moeses Bauan 

I met a couple celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary recently.

I was blown away that a marriage could last this long!

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro? Sure.

Running a marathon. I can see it.

Walking a 100 km on a pilgrimage to the Palani Murugan temple in Tamilnadu. Ok.

But a long-lasting, thriving, 60 year marriage?

Seems impossible.

Santa is more likely to exist than 60 year marriages, right!?!

Not only did my marriage end but I see so many unfulfilled and unhappy marriages around me.

There must be some kind of secret to this thing??

What actually makes marriages and long-term relationships work?

A woman I met recently suggested I pick up this book, The 7 Principles of Making Marriage Work.

While we’re no longer talking and I couldn’t make that budding relationship last, her book suggestion was invaluable.

I got a better a picture of what it takes in the book, The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work.

I’m still not sure I can fulfill these 7 principles but I finally got a scientific, research-based answer of what it’s going to take.

Here are the 7 principles it will take to make marriage work, if not for this marriage, then at least for your next one:   

1.Being familiar with each other’s worlds.

You’re familiar with intimate details of your spouse’s life and you pay attention to these details. As the author puts it, couples who know each others love map, “know each other’s life goals, worries, and hopes.” When you have greater personal insight about your spouse, you’ll know your spouse better. When you know your spouse better, there’s more room for love and affection.

2.Look at each other with admiration.

Behind the antagonism and fights of a unhealthy marriage, can you still care for each other? Do you still find things that you like and respect about each other? The idea is to continue to cherish and appreciate each other in the normal course of the marriage. If you see your spouse with positivity and admiration, you can save your marriage and be happily married.

3.Turn toward each other.

You can make your marriage work better by regularly connecting with and turning towards each other. Are you being thoughtful towards each other, helping each other and being there for each other? Each time you help each other out or are there for each other, you are funding your emotional bank account. It’s paying attention to everyday interactions and valuing them, instead of taking your interactions for granted.

4.Let your partner influence you.

You have to an equal partner with your spouse to make the marriage work. You have to both participate in the decision making and respect and honor each other’s opinions and thoughts. You have to be willing to give and receive input to each other and take their thoughts into account when making decisions. When you accept the other person’s influence in making a decision, you strengthen the friendship between both of you. “…the goal is for both of you to be influential and to accept each other’s influence.

5. Solve your solvable problems.

Take a new approach to settling conflict and solving problems that can be solved in a marriage, as opposed to the perpetual problems in a marriage. The most effective steps for resolving issues starts with softening your start-up, making and accepting repair attempts, soothing yourself and each other, compromise, and processing grievances so they don’t linger. The basic idea is to have good manners and to treat each other as you would a work colleague or guest when resolving problems.

6. Overcome gridlock.

Some arguments never end and both sides believe they are in the right. The issue becomes increasingly polarizing over time and neither side wants to compromise and lose. The best thing to do is to avoid or sidestep gridlock if you can avoid it. If you can’t avoid it, figure out a way to acknowledge it and discuss the issue without hurting each other. Neither party has to give in and lose, Gottman points out. “In satisfying relationships, partners incorporate each other’s goals into their concept of what their marriage is about,” he writes. He suggests ways to uncover each others deepest hopes and dreams to help couples find common ground and be able to support each other in the pursuit of these hopes and dreams.

7. Having a shared meaning.

Each successful marriage has it’s own culture. It symbolizes something and stands for something. “When a marriage has this sense of meaning, conflict is much less intense and perpetual problems are unlikely to lead to gridlock,” observes Gottman. The more you agree about the big picture or the profound things in life, the better your marriage is likely to be. Even if you don’t agree, if you can speak honestly and understand each other’s convictions and beliefs, your marriage will fare well. Meaning can be enhanced in 4 ways; creating rituals of connections around different aspects of your life. You can also develop meaning by supporting each other’s roles in the family, supporting each other’s personal goals and finally, having shared objects or activities that symbolize your shared values and purpose in life.

The idea of this book isn’t about doing everything but doing something. It’s about re-evaluating, communicating and implementing some of the many ideas discussed.

If you’re at a critical point in your marriage where some changes need to take place, pick up this book today.

The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work is the conversation starter and invitation to explore and understand each other more. Self-awareness and self-understanding, individually and as couples, can go a long ways in improving the quality of a marriage.

Pick up The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work here.

How to Predict Divorce

I can predict whether a couple will divorce after watching and listening to them for just fifteen minutes.” John Gottman, Ph.D

If you had a crystal ball, would you have predicted divorce?

I sure wouldn’t have. No one ever gets married thinking they’re going to get divorced.

Are there tell-tale signs of divorce? According to John Gottman, professor psychology and researcher who has studied thousands of marriages, the answer is yes!

Thanks to years of scientific data and analysis in his laboratory in Washington observing and following up with real-life married couples, here’s what Dr. Gottman found.

It doesn’t take science for these concepts to make sense. Any one of us who’s been in a divorce can easily to recognize these very destructive behaviors we committed in our marriages which ultimately led to our divorce.

His analysis can be found in his New York Times bestselling book, The Seven Principles for Marking Marriage Work. Oh, and course, if you’re wondering what those 7 principles are, come back for next week’s post.

(And I don’t have to say this but if you would like to get all my posts and never miss a post, please put your name in the subscribe box in the sidebar of this page)

So what did studying thousands of marriages, couples and relationships show about divorce?

In listening to couples quarrel in the lab and fight as they are being studied, here are the signs that lead to divorce in relationships.

1. Starting off harshly. If your discussion starts harshly and filled with negativity, the discussion is going to end in a fight. “Statistics tell the story,” per Gottman, “96 percent of the time you can predict the outcome of a conversation based on the first three minutes of the fifteen-minute interaction!” He’s not saying if you start negatively, you’re going to have a divorce but if you have enough negative conversations which end poorly, you’re going to find yourself divorcing down the road.

2. Criticism: Gottman points out there are differences between complaints and criticism. Complaints are when you’re not happy when your spouse did something and you express your feelings to her about what she did wrong. A criticism, however, takes it to another level by attacking the person’s character or personality. You don’t simply comment that you’re upset that your wife spends too much money but complains that she’s a spend-thrift who is out to bankrupt you. You don’t complain that the meal is not tasty (this is a dangerous complaint by the way) but you go on to say that she isn’t good at anything or she can’t even do the simplest of things in life!

3. Contempt: Contempt is when you feel superior to your partner and disrespect her. You cultivate contempt by building up a whole series of things that you’re unhappy with and then don’t talk about. Partners who are contemptuous take on the higher moral ground and question the other person’s ability, worth, skills or behavior. You build up disgust and anger towards each over a period of time. You lose respect for each and believe you’re no longer equals but better than the other person. Every mistake or error in the relationship allows you to become even more contemptuous and lash out at each other.

4. Defensiveness. Often times, when you’re defending yourself in an argument, you’re really blaming the other person. You take the position of an innocent victim and lay the blame at the feet of the other person. “Defensiveness in all its guises just escalates the conflict, which is why it’s so deadly,” Gottman observes. Defensiveness means you’re not accepting responsibility for your part of the interaction and instead shifting blame back on your spouse.

5. Stonewalling.  This was my favorite and I’m sure how most men handle conflict in marriages. In a regular conversation you pay attention and look at the person speaking. You listen, make up your mind, respond and go back and forth with each other. The stonewaller, however doesn’t participate in the conversation. “He tends to look away or down without uttering a sound,” Gottman writes, “He sits like an impassive stone wall…acts as though he couldn’t care less about what you’re saying, if he even hears it.” You feel that you can’t win no matter what and it would be easier to get through the hour by not being present or pretending not to listen. Stonewalling is not getting sucked into the drama you observe is going on.

6. Flooding. The reason men and sometimes, women, stonewall, is because they experience a feeling called flooding. “It occurs when your spouse’s negativity is so intense and sudden that it leaves you shell-shocked.” You try to avoid feeling flooding or flooded that you stonewall and keep the attacks at you at bay by not responding. One person is not able to handle the other person’s hostility, criticism, contempt, etc. If you feel flooded often, you’ll start distancing yourself emotionally which will ultimately lead to growing apart, feeling lonely and divorcing.

7. Failed Repair Attempts. Repair attempts are efforts couples make to reduce the tension of a situation, take a break from an argument or put the brakes on where a conversation is going. It’s humor, or changing subjects or taking the heat of any given situation. When couples don’t repair the above common practices, tension and resentment continues to build up. When couples are criticizing and being contemptuous, there is little room for repair, making flooding more pronounced and leading to one or both spouses withdrawing.

Even if a marriage has all of the other faults above but the couples can repair arguments and the behaviors above successfully, the marriage remains successful in the long run. When there were no repair attempts or when the repairs were drowned out, marriages eventually ended.

These signs of what lead to the destruction of a marriage may be sad and depressing. It may trigger memories for you of all the behavior you both exhibited in your marriage.

How do you actually make marriage work? You can wait for my post next week on the 7 principles of making marriage work or you can pick up The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work here.

Photo credit Jennifer Regnier