Dear Dr Matt: My wife is in the process of filing for divorce. I really wanted to stay married, but my wife has "had it” with me. The saying goes ”Everything happens for a reason.” So was this divorce "meant to be,” since everything happens for a reason? What do you think? Gregory M., Seattle, WA.
Greg: You got dirt instead of dessert, and the most compelling "reason" just may be: YOU made some dumb decisions.
Lurking beneath the seemingly innocuous phrase "Everything happens for a reason," is a vital philosophical issue: Fate vs. Free Will.
The average American is schizophrenic on this issue. On the one hand, we eagerly agree that human beings are "free to choose," while on the other hand, we have an irresistible itch to have our cards read, our palms perused, our horoscopes scoped, or to have some soothsayer psych-us-out about a future that is supposedly "set in the stars” — a notion that runs contrary to "free choice."
The idea that "everything happens for a reason" implies that life is largely driven by forces of Fate. From this perspective, things happen "for a Reason" (with a Capital R) and people are passive passengers going along for a predestined ride; and when unexpected or unwanted things happen, we wonder, . . . . "What is the Reason this happened?"
The actual explanation for many of life's unwanted twists and turns is NOT because of some grand "Reason" foreordained by Fate, but simply because unreasonable people make unreasonable choices; and those unwise choices, in turn, set in motion unreasonable results. Sometimes those results can be quite senseless. In this life, many things happen "for no good reason at all."
But even when things happen "for no good reason," in time, there can be lessons learned. Much wisdom is gleaned especially from unreasonable situations, even senseless situations. The saying goes: When life hands you a lemon, you can still make lemonade!
In the face of tough times there are two basic choices: You can choose to be bitter, or choose to be better — you can be a lemon sucker or a lemonade maker.
So Greg, rather than thinking that your divorce was "meant to be" or "written in the stars," it is helpful for your future success to examine the "dumb decisions" you made in your marriage — the poor choices that set in motion your wife’s decision to leave you.
Reflect carefully upon the dumb decisions that ultimately delivered dirt instead of dessert. Because human beings are capable of choosing from among alternatives — capable of expressing themselves creatively and independently — the painful truth is:
In many situations we could have had dessert instead of dirt, and Fate had little to do with it — destiny was mostly in our hands.
Now if you accept this conclusion, then YAHOO! This is great good news! Because IF you accept responsibility for the choices that twirled you down the toilet, THEN you can "unchoose” your way right back out of the sewer — otherwise, your STUCK.
So is fate creating us, or are we creating fate? Are we like ships on a turbulent sea being blown about by the winds of destiny, or do we have some navigating power? The answer: Yes! Both! While we can’t always choose what happens to us (turbulent storms of life), we can choose the way we will respond (navigate) to life’s "bad weather.”
We can change our habits, reinvent ourselves, shape our destinies, and create our fate, as we travel a pathway paved by powers beyond our control.
Greg, pick your self up, own and admit to all the dumb decisions you've made in the past. Learn from your stupidity, and just maybe, this chapter in your personal history will not repeat itself in the future. Destiny is in your hands.
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Dear Dr. Matt: A New Year will soon be here and it's time again for a fresh start and a new beginning. My frustration is that I every January I set ambitious resolutions of what I know I ought to accomplish, but by February, I'm back in the same old habit patterns. Why can't I maintain a consistent change? Lucy L. from Louisiana
If your New Year's Goals deal with changing Outward Actions only, . . . then through your own willful determination you may be able to alter the "appearance" of those actions. This explains why hypocrites and dishonest politicians can consistently maintain a manipulative facade—because such superficial changes only require the efforts of a clever Head to accomplish politically correct appearances.
In contrast, no one can maintain a change in Inward Motives through mental programing and vivid visualizing. As I explain in my book Changing Your Stripes:
"You really can't "think" yourself into being happy. Neither can you chant enough affirmations to change yourself into a person of higher character. Cognitive therapies of mental programming may superficially alter outward appearances, but Who You Are from the heart remains unchanged."
In the setting and getting of good goals, there is always a fundamental obstacle: YOU!
The reason why so many people fail, year and year, to sustain a fundamental change is this: They are trying to Start New . . . by using the Old Mind that hatched the Old Habits in the first place. This is a dilemma that I have termed . . . Einstein's Mind Bind. Here is another excerpt from my book that explains:
Einstein's Mind Bind. With clouded vision and confused thinking, you cannot "figure" your way out of a problem . . . because impaired perceptions inevitably lead to flawed solutions. Such a bind of the mind . . . was acknowledged by Einstein:
* * * * *
Thinking that you can solve Life's most important problems with your "thinking" . . . is itself a problem. When confronted with a crucial issue, people often say, "I need to figure things out . . . I need a strategy." But the mental mindset used to create a problem cannot be used to solve it! And as long as the Head remains disconnected from the Heart, people will proceed to solve their problems in precisely the wrong ways; they will be beset with a blinding mental block that breeds more perplexity.
Being blind in the mind is a condition I also call . . . The Migraine Mental Block: An ailment of a Head that pays no heed to the Heart. Again, being Blind in the Mind means: The head that thunk its way into a tangle cannot be used to think its way out of a tangle. But from whence comes a mindset capable of creating problems? It could be a function of shear ignorance, that's one possibility. The other possibility is that the "mind bind" is a function of betrayal. (Changing Your Stripes, page 175)
"Betrayal" refers to those moments when a person goes against his or her own sense of what is good. The truth is . . . the way to goodness is given to all of humanity. Consider this question: Would a truly wise Creator simply create, and then leave his creations clueless as to direction, purpose, and meaning?
The Creator IS infinitely wise, and thus has given all humanity a Gift of Guidance. This is the way I say it in Changing Your Stripes:
As Pierre De Chardin maintained: "You are not a human being having a spiritual experience, but a spiritual being having a human experience." Hence, you must recover your spiritual identity--for most fundamentally this is Who You Are. How then, do you let the You that is True emerge? How does one recover their spiritual identity?
* * * * *
Harmony of Heart . . . and Happiness . . . naturally go together! Hearing and heeding inner impressions of the Heart IS precisely the way we escape "Einstein's Mind Bind," . . . it is the way we get relief from the "Migraine Mental Block" that perpetuates problems over and over again. What it means to be human is to inherently know the way to fulfillment; a destiny of Divine design. Again, from my book:
The transformation called "Changing Your Stripes" requires a change in your way of thinking—a paradigm shift! But the truth is: You can't change your mind using the same mind that needs changing! Strategies and techniques initiated from the Head cannot bring about a fundamental change from your core, . . . a genuine change of Heart. You can only change your way of thinking . . . when you change your way of being, and changing Who You Are fundamentally is a metamorphosis of character that initiates from the Heart and not the Head. Three thousand years ago, wise King Solomon encouraged this essential truth:
* * * * *
Lucy, using your Head may be useful for solving problems of Algebra, . . . but the Head is completely powerless for solving problems of Anguish, . . . and for maintaining a consistent Change in the Core of your Character. The key to keeping your New Year's Resolutions resides in the keeping of your Heart with all diligence.
What is means to "Keep Your Heart" is a question that . . . if continually pondered, . . . will be like a Beacon of Light that will lead you through every dark and deepening trial, . . . and will be the source of power that will sustain you through every good goal and resolution.
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Dear Dr Matt: I am 42 years old. This is my second marriage, we are raising five children together. We dated for two years before tying the knot. The problem is now that we are married we fight and disagree on a daily basis. He is a very loud man, and stubborn, and I am just as stubborn. We butt heads. Dr. Matt he never accepts blame for anything, always putting blame on others. What do I do to make him see he is not the perfect person in a world of imperfection? Thanks for your time, Terri T. from Kentucky.
You ask, . . . "What do I do to make him see . . . "?
In the first place, you cannot "make" him . . . but you can "invite" and "influence" your husband to see his failings. The fact is . . . he may never see his failings! Freud calls this "denial," . . . I call it "foolin' yourself."
Whatever positive efforts you put into this project, . . . you need to accept the fact that he may never admit to, and own, his stuff.
Since you can only control YOU
Become a White Canvas upon which the colors of his imperfections are painted, creating a clear picture for him to see. Here's an excerpt from my book that will help you understand:
In Contrast to Pure White. Visualize a canvas of pure white, the kind of canvas that an artist uses to paint a portrait. Think of your Life as a collection of colors being painted upon this clean, clear canvas. With every word you think and every deed you do, the portrait of your Life is painted; and in contrast to pure white, any tint or shade less than white is obvious and conspicuous. Against an immaculate backdrop, you are able to see . . . with perfect clarity . . . how certain motives and emotions fall short of pure white.
In your mind's eye, imagine that all loving words and deeds possess the unsullied shine of bright white. The purity of love would have no hint of darkness, not even the slightest shade of gray. Every word, deed, thought, or emotion that is "less-than" pure white . . . is a shade of betrayal.
* * * * *
When we are being less-than-loving, the portrait we paint upon the white canvas is clouded by confusion. Instead of the vivid hues of red, blue, and green, a quarreling collision of colors makes the muddied shades of black and gray. Thus, the portrait of our Life loses clarity . . . and beauty. Against the backdrop of bright white, even the subtlest shades of gray are easily exposed. (Changing Your Stripes, page 3-36)
When YOU become a clean "white canvas" . . . it is then that your husband will see the portrait of his betrayals with complete clarity. His imperfections will be crystal clear to him because the portrait that is painted "in the moment" of his bad behavior . . . will NOT be muddied by the confusion of colors that you might splash on the canvas.
Finally, the motive held within your heart for becoming a clean white canvas is for the sake of love and compassion for your husband, . . . and NOT to blame him for that which he is blame-able for.
If you have the motive of blame within your heart, . . . you are no longer . . . pure white, and you have muddied a clear picture. Blame is one of the tell-tale signs of betrayal; blame points to a person's departure from bright white Light.
Since it is YOU that is motivated to make things better, all future changes that you hope for in your relationship . . . must begin with YOU. When you change YOU, . . . then you will change the "relationship recipe" . . . and thus, . . . you will necessarily "bake a different cake." Meaning: You will necessarily change your husband, because he will be responding to . . . a different you!
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Dear Dr Matt: There's this guy at my work place that I like a lot. We've never met, but I'd like to get to know him. I managed to give my telephone number to his roommate, but he never has called me. One day at work, we finally met and he got real red faced. One of my fellow workers told me that anytime I get around him he gets embarrassed like that. I don't know if that mean he likes me? What should I do. I'm a very shy person. I don't know how to ask him. I am 21. Kimberly K., San Diego, Calif.
To discern what might be going on "inside" this guy, while his face is "red" on the outside . . . is simply a matter of getting to know this guy really well . . . over time. The red face could mean many things. And since you are "shy" . . . the getting to know process may move quite slowly.
For many people, they fear a straight forward approach to finding out if someone is interested . . . because they FEAR possible rejection; and that very FEAR paralyzes them from doing anything. Thus, NO approach is made . . . and giving friendship a chance to develop AT LEAST . . . never happens.
Here's a quote from my book that provides a guideline for knowing . . . when relationships are flowing:
Attraction flows, it cannot be forced.
Kimberly, the BEST friendships flow; they develop comfortably and are not forced! Further, friendship is the foundation of all great relations! Over time and through experience you will be able to KNOW whether or not YOU are comfortable around this guy . . . and whether he is comfortable around you.
So, the KEY to knowing if this guy likes you . . . is to simply continue in the conversation . . . keep communicating! And day by day . . . through experience . . . you will come to know the answers that you are seeking! The best friendships will not be forced; instead, they will flow . . . and then you will know.
Remember, great guys are found on the road to doing great things. Get yourself involved in worthwhile causes, hobbies, and interests . . . and eventually you will meet someone who is also on that same worthwhile road, and then, . . . Serendipity!
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Hello Dr. Moody: I am having a problem in my marriage. My wife has no trust in me even though I try every thing in my power to take care of her and treat her right. I am 28 and my wife is 27. I have four children ages 6, 5, 3, and1. I thought we shared a lot of the same things when we got married, but truthfully we are from two different worlds. We've been married for 7 yrs but apart for most of them. I am in the military and she couldn't deal with the living on the base, so she went back home. I have supported the family through all these years and do what I can to take care of my family, but I guess its not enough. What do I do? David from Dallas, Texas.
It takes the commitment of two to make a marriage, and only the decision of one to break it; and it only takes the misbehavior of one . . . to make a marriage miserable. The marriage will only be "saved" as you and your wife work together in unity and in love. While you cannot "save" your marriage by yourself, . . . you can assure inner peace for yourself by living true.
I might have asked you "why" your wife does not trust you? But, one way or the other here's how TRUST occurs for most people: Whether or not you are trustworthy, . . . emotionally and spiritually healthy people will tend to extend their trust to you anyway. It is people that live in spiritual dis-harmony who are cynical and mis-trusting.
Black Elk, the famous Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux, said this: "It is in the darkness of their eyes, that men get lost." Most likely your wife's mistrust of you IS a function of "who she is," . . . the darkness is in her eyes. That being said, . . . you cannot control your wife's life decisions, . . . neither can you directly CHANGE your wife. You can only control & CHANGE yourself. So here is your challenge:
To respond to your wife in loving ways, . . . regardless of whether she is loving to you. If you can do this, . . . such will ensure your peace of heart and mind. But how do you do this? How do you respond in loving ways, . . . even though others may not be loving toward you? You need to become the kind of creature from which loving responses flow, . . . just as pure water flows from a pure fountain.
So, regardless of what your wife decides to do . . .
Here is are some thoughts from my book that apply to your situation:
Mastering a challenging situation is ultimately a matter of mastering yourself! Life is to be lived with gusto! Challenges are to be met head on, . . . for it is directly "in" our challenges that we find our ultimate destiny. In the ever-appearing adversities of life, we increase in strength of character; a character that at mortal death is the only possession of which it can be said: "you took it with you." What you will take into the eternal world is . . . what you become!
* * * * *
Your situation is a challenging one, . . . but if you meet this challenge with God as your support and strength, this very adversity will "make you" the kind of creature you need to become! I love these words from the Old Testament:
"For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me . . . For he knoweth the way that I should take: and when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." (Job 23: 14, 10)
When we get married, we expect that our partners will be our best friend. Had your wife simply "toughed it out" at the base, . . . that would have shown her love for you. But she did not do this, . . . so you are left to "respond" as best you can.
Jesus said "For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye" (Matt. 5:46). These are the words Jesus spoke after he admonished:
"Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,
While your wife has things she needs to improve on . . . again, you cannot control what she does, . . . instead, you can only control yourself. As you do what you CAN do, . . . which IS to Live True, . . . you will assure your "peace of heart" even if your wife continues her mis-trust.
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Dear Dr Matt: They say no one can "make” you mad without your permission. I sense that this is true, but sometimes when I’m confronted with a really irritating person, it feels like I’m not really responsible for getting angry. What’s the truth? Lisa L., Laguna Beach, Calif.
Dr Matt likes to say: "If it comes out of you, it is yours.” The style and flavor of your responses are always yours! I call this response-ability. Your angry reactions are always your response-ability. So, . . . NO, that irritating person did not "make you mad.” But YES, that provoking person did "cause” you to respond in some fashion (as all human beings will in the same situation).
Now, because you are "caused” to respond in some way to a person who inserts unwanted irritation into your life, you may feel like your reaction is really a function of that irritating person. And it is! You were a victim of rudeness! But being accosted by irritating others is a fact of life! Get use to it, and get over it. Don’t wallow in the mud of a victim mentality. Human life is filled with moments that will push and pull you in directions you don’t desire.
The reasoning goes,” If he hadn’t done this, then I wouldn’t have done that.” Again, the provoking person does capture your attention and does "cause” you to respond. And because you didn’t want your attention "captured” in that way, in that moment, you can feel like a victim of that unwanted and irritating circumstance.
Others can only "drive you up the wall” IF you are the type of person who is drivable-up-the-wall-able. Some people have a propensity to be "made mad.” This is where the idea of "permission” comes in. By failing to make firm commitments towards the goal of becoming emotionally and spiritually healthy today, you are in essence "giving permission” for others to . . .”drive you up the wall” tomorrow.
The complete answer is not that simple, it has some subtle facets that are commonly misunderstood. Consider the following line of logic. When you use the word "make” in the phrase, "make you mad,” this word denotes causation. So let’s get clear on causation.
In communicative exchanges between human beings, provoking people can "cause” you to pay attention to their annoying noise. They can elicit a response from you; they can essentially "make you” respond is some way. But the color and character of your response is not made by provoking people; rather, it is made by you.
As the saying goes: "It’s not what happens to you in life, but how you respond.” What is important is the color and character of your response. The way that you react is a reflection of "who you are” at your core--it reveals the depth of your character. The way you respond to life’s most challenging moments determines the richness of your life.
Make the choice to become emotionally and spiritually healthy, today, so tomorrow you won’t be the type of person who is drivable-up-the-wallable. It’s your response-ability!
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Dear Dr Matt: I’m dating a guy who lavishes flowers, gifts, and candle light dinners on me. He compliments me constantly, and attends to my every need. You’d think I’d met my dream man, my knight in shining armour. The problem is, while this man is a perfect and generous gentleman, he doesn’t seem to ”light my fire,” and I’m wondering if this is something I can kindle down the road. Help me out here. Shannon J., Portland, Maine.
Shannon: The element of attraction missing from your relationship is commonly called Chemistry. When you’re looking for a great date and a perfect mate consider the 5 C’s of Attraction: Chemistry, Cash, Compatibility, Character, & Commitment.
In the long run, this Knight’s shining armour will tarnish quickly unless you’ve got Chemistry clicking. You really DO need that spark of passion, you say is missing in your relationship currently.
The burning question: Can you eventually kindle a fire with Mr. Compliments? Sadly, if you don’t "feel the fire” early on, it is not likely to develop down the road. In fact, the opposite trend is what occurs in most cases. Over time, the fires of passion tend to flame out, unless couples continually "work at” feeding the flames.
But Chemistry is only one factor of attraction. Consider the couples that divorce daily, who began with a truck load of Chemistry, and little else. So Chemistry must be balanced with the other C’s of Attraction.
Because he lavishes you with gifts and flowers it appears your generous gentlemen has the element of attraction called "Cash.” But do your homework, he could be putting up an impressive pretense. See if there is a solid job behind his money (or at least a hefty inheritance).
Relationships are free to succeed when they are not burdened down with constant concerns about Cash. Also consider "Compatibility” in your assessment of this gentleman. There is overwhelming research consensus on this point: The more similar you are to another person, the more probable are the chances for a relationship to be satisfying and stable.
The similarity, however, has to be on particular points that unify, rather than divide. For example, a couple might share the similar attribute of sloppiness! Being "slobs” together--although an enticing idea--is not a unifying factor. Both being neat and orderly, on the other hand, is a factor of similarity that can unify.
The most important factors of similarity to focus on happen to be the last of our 5 C’s of Attraction: Character & Commitment!
A person of great Character & Commitment will keep ”working at” a relationship when times get tough--as they inevitably do.
Finally, you can only attract someone to you, who is as good as you! You will only deserve a person who is as wonderful as yourself--or as flawed. You can’t attract a man of character to you, unless you are a woman of character. So, get yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy; and then go find someone who is like yourself!
Wonderful people attract to wonderful people. It’s the law of the universe. In the mean time dump Mr. Compliments and find yourself a man who can get your hormones hoppin’. Or you could settle for less, and enjoy the Cash. It’s your call.
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