Retirement Has Begun

I specialize in coaching on long-term relationships but have a vested interest in coaching women with husbands who are approaching retirement.  This is because my husband and I are preparing for his retirement.

I’ve done a few blog posts on this subject in the past but it has all recently come to fruition.  He has RETIRED.  This was not according to our plan.  He was planning to work for another year to year and a half.  He was just starting to formulate his next step.  Would it be full retirement?  Would it be starting his own business and becoming an entrepreneur?  Would it be a part time or consulting job?

Well, before he even had a chance to figure it out, he was let go.  His company cut a huge number of positions, closed offices and gave severance packages to many long term employees citing COVID.  My husband found himself suddenly without a job but fortunately in a position to have some time and space to start thinking and planning.  Both because he has a severance package which buys us some time AND also because during this time of COVID he is thinking that very few companies are in a position to hire.

So here’s the fascinating thing.  His brain struggled at first.  Despite all of our discussions, previous planning and steps we had taken to think about our future, it offered up so many negative thoughts about this being a ‘bad’ thing.  About this being ‘not according to his plan.’  Part of him was relieved but another part of has been struggling with all the free time and willingness to make a decision about what to do next.  Yes, all of these are thoughts that I’m having but they are a synopsis of many words that have come directly from his mouth.

So, this should be the beginning of an interesting journey that I will be sharing with you. It will likely be infused with general posts about the coaching tools I have learned from Brooke Castillo and during my training at The Life Coach School.  It will also likely involve me doing lots of thought work and using different coaching tools on myself than I have utilized in the past.  Lots of new things coming up!

Tony Robbins Relationship Tool

I’ve been revisiting some Tony Robbins talks lately.  I think Tony Robbins is brilliant and has a Brooke Castillo-like ability to get right to the root of people’s issues.  However, to be perfectly honest, his ‘rah-rah’ enthusiasm can be a bit much for me after a while and these thoughts lead to me go for long stretches not following him or listening to him.

However, I recently was led to an on-line event that Tony Robbins hosted and he gave a talk about relationships in which he brought up a concept that I had never heard before.  It is called Ho’oponono which is a Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness. He uses it in his relationship by saying the phrase, “I’m sorry. I love you. Please forgive me. Thank you.”

I immediately began to think about relationships and how to use this phrase.  It seems that it could be used whenever there is tension, an argument, a disagreement.  Could it be used at times to step back and admit that something has gone wrong but is doesn’t matter who is to blame here?  That perhaps both parties are to blame?

I have been thinking a lot about the use of this concept.  I will try to use it in my own relationships and will check back to report on the results.  I’d also love to hear from anyone who is willing to let me know your take on this and any experiences you have with it.  My e-mail address is: amybrainard@yahoo.com and I welcome any thoughts you are willing to share.

The Goal of All Relationships Should Be….

The goal of all relationships and not just marriages should be SELF LOVE.  In my experience coaching others and observing life I’ve come to the conclusion that the people who have the most fulfilling relationships love and accept themselves so very deeply that they simply don’t need other people to meet their needs.

Think about it–when you take full responsibility for your own emotions and can depend on yourself for generating your own feelings, you become able to drop all expectations of other people. When you depend on other people (let’s say your husband) to feel wanted, needed, appreciated, loved, etc. you are at the mercy of their behavior for something that they may or may not be capable of providing to you.

It’s so much better to work on deciding to think thoughts that provide you with the feelings you desire.  You can take notice and think about all the ways you appreciate YOU.  You can work on thinking thoughts about how valuable you are, how lovable you are, and how you have your own back.

Of course, this is the tricky part.  Typically we treat those around us far better than we treat ourselves.  Start by taking notice of your self talk–are you constantly beating yourself up or being critical of yourself?  Do you keep commitments you make to yourself?  To you put yourself last before others? 

This is the work to do. Work on yourself. Have compassion for yourself. When you are there fully for yourself, you will be able to simply enjoy those around you without needing anything at all from them other than their presence.  This is so freeing for you AND FOR THEM!

Give it a try and see what happens.  I have a hunch that your relationships will improve is so many ways.

The Problem with Thinking There’s a Best Decision

The problem with thinking that one decision is better than another is that it causes us to waste time agonizing over trying to choose the RIGHT decision and often causes us to argue with the past wishing it were different. News flash~this is a colossal waste of time! As far as I know, nobody has yet figured out how to change the past.

Let’s take a look at the decision of whether or not we should divorce our spouse.  If we make the decision to file for divorce, there are a whole host of things we could think about that would make us feel negative emotions: “It will be expensive, it will be hard on the kids, I will be alone”…and the list can go on and on. 

But on the other hand, we could also list all of the things that we think would be better such as: “The kids won’t have to hear all of the fighting, I will figure out how to stand on my own two feet, I will have an opportunity to find someone who treats me the way I want to be treated”, etc. etc.

The fact of the matter is that ALL decisions involve pros and cons, good and bad, positive AND negative emotions.  It serves no purpose to sit stuck in overwhelm or fear of making the wrong decision.

Just drop the idea that there is such a thing as a better decision. Understand and like your why for making the decision that you have made (here’s a post about this). By doing this, there’s a greater chance that you will be able to move forward without looking back and create the future of your choice all while wasting a lot less time and causing yourself FAR less pain and suffering.

Are you a GIVER or a SCORER?

Did you know that healthy marriages operate using RECIPROCITY?  This means that one partner rewards the other partner’s good behavior with more good behavior.  If you are able to do ‘good’ things for your spouse without expecting anything in return, you are a GIVER.  And by being a GIVER, you are actually increasing the likelihood that your spouse will want to do good things for you.

One caveat–don’t twist the idea of what it means to do a “good thing.”  If you think that it would be good for your husband if he ate healthier so you grab the bag of potato chips out of his hand and throw them away for his own good, you’re not understanding that anything involving a change in his behavior does not apply here.  That’s because he will see it as you wanting him to be different than he is–which doesn’t feel at all like a “good thing.”

In many unhealthy marriages, points are tallied and at least one spouse keeps track of the score, usually focusing far more on the negatives than the positives. Keeping score of the negatives usually turns into a game of “right versus wrong”–where our brain’s desire to prove ourselves “right” pushes us to focus on our partners “wrongs.”  This is a horrible game for most marriages because in order for one partner to “win” the relationship will LOSE.

HOW TO STOP THIS CRAZY GAME?

The first step to putting an end to the “right versus wrong” game is to make a shift toward noticing and keeping score of the positive things your partner does.  This can be as simple as  when he walks in the door after work, settles into his comfy chair with an exhausted sigh and turns on the TV you think, “he works so hard to provide for our family.”

Notice ALL the good things and I am certain you will have a much easier time doing nice things for him or even just showing up in your interactions with him in a more positive way–which can make a world of difference!

Stop ‘Shoulding’ on Yourself!

Stop “shoulding” on yourself!  Yes, I’m guilty of doing this to myself at the moment, too.

It’s really easy to listen to our brain’s background chatter when it says things like,  “I should be an awesome teacher for my kids at this time” “I should be counting my blessings” or “I should be doing something productive and not watching so much Netflix.”

It doesn’t matter what sentences we are listening to in our brains that begin with “I should be” or “I  shouldn’t be…” but have some compassion for yourself. Try to think of it this way: when we choose to listen to these thoughts it’s like we’re hitting ourselves repeatedly on the head with a hammer–ouch!  No upside at all, not necessarily helping us be more productive, and really only causing us more pain and discomfort than we’re already experiencing.

Try this instead, take a deep breath and rather than think a thought such as, “I should be exercising more” add a simple phrase to help you think a new thought.  This would look something like, “I notice I’m thinking I should be exercising more, and that’s okay.”  Then add another thought that you actually believe such as “And today I’m going to try again and go for a walk.” 

Try it and notice what happens.  Don’t forget to do it with compassion for yourself.  SO much better and far less painful in the long run!

Questions to Ask Yourself in Times of Chaos

Lots of uncertainty and chaos right now that schools, public events & get-togethers have closed and come to a screeching halt as a result of COVID-19.  But in this unchartered time of ‘social distancing’ how do we keep from feeling totally overwhelmed, stressed out or ___________(insert any other negative emotion you are feeling)?

First of all, pay attention to the sentences in your mind that are causing your suffering.  Two of the most common thoughts I’m hearing from clients at the moment are:

  1. “I don’t know” followed by things such as ‘what I should do’, or ‘if I should or shouldn’t go.’

What if there isn’t any such thing as a right decision? What if we can only make the best decision we can with the knowledge we have at the moment and just go forward without looking back?  One of the things that helps me do this is to make sure that I am feeling loving and compassionate toward myself rather than coming from a place of fear.  In order to do this I simply ask myself ‘what is the reason I am making this decision’ and take a look at my answer to see if I like my reason and to make sure it isn’t coming from a place of fear or lack (the opposite of abundance).

   2.    “He/she/it shouldn’t” followed by things such as ‘be happening,’ or ‘be behaving this way’

Thinking the world should be different or people should be acting differently causes us a tremendous amount of suffering.  Human beings will always do what they’re going to do and we can’t change this.  Whenever we choose to think that others should be acting differently, we  stop being able to make suggestions or voice our opinions in a loving or caring way.  Just think about it, when somebody tells you what you ‘should’ do, don’t you automatically feel resistant and defensive? 

What if somebody said to you with no expectations attached, “I care about you so much and I’m worried you’re going to get sick.  I’d love it if you had your groceries delivered instead of visiting the supermarket.”  The operative thing here is this being said with no expectations...think of this as planting a seed and letting the other person take charge of what he/she does with it.  It may be more likely that the seed you planted starts taking root rather than the other person being resistant and choosing to ignore it thus decreasing the chances it will take root.

So, my suggestion is to experiment–take notice of how you are showing up in your relationships with others and also if you are stuck in any negative emotion spirals.  What happens after you take notice and attempt to show up in a new way next time?

How I Re-connected with my Husband

I want to let you know exactly how I was able to feel more connected to my husband.  For a very long time, I wasn’t feeling that we were a “team,” that he didn’t understand me and that I wasn’t his #1 priority.  I was feeling alone, misunderstood, and not appreciated.

What exactly did I do to change things and allow myself to feel connected with him again?  Well,  I can tell you that spending more time together trying to talk about all of this did NOT help.  Meeting with a marriage counselor helped us talk things through without one of us getting totally frustrated or shutting down, but after these sessions I felt exactly the same as before we started.

Spending more together, even when we were not addressing my feelings, did NOT help.  As a matter of fact, our ‘alone’ time and date nights just made me long even more for my husband and I to be “on the same page,” to feel like we had a partnership, and to feel cherished by him. 

It was not until I started changing my THOUGHTS rather than trying to change my HUSBAND that our marriage had a radical, profound change for the better. I dropped the thoughts I was having such as, “if we were a team, he’d put my wants and desires above his mother’s wants and desires.” Now I probably need to explain that his mother simply had some opinions about the amount of time she wanted to spend with my kids (her only grandkids) that happened to differ from my own opinions.

Once I realized that my thoughts were the problem here, I decided to look at things differently.  I chose thoughts such as:

>”My husband is caught in the middle and wants to please both his mother and me–what a caring husband and son.”

>”There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ here–only different opinions held by different people”

>”My mother-in-law has opinions and they are about her–not about ME.”

>”As long as we plan vacations with just me, my husband and our kids first, I’m totally open to plan vacations with my in-laws.”

So some very interesting things happened when I adopted these new thoughts.  My husband was thrilled to plan some family vacations with just the 5 of us and then planned a vacation and some visits with his parents.  We went on these vacations and it was fascinating that when we were with his parents, my husband noticed he used to defend or try to hide his parent’s opinions and actions from me but now he felt like whatever his parents said or did no longer divided us–as a matter of fact, he felt like we were such a strong, close partnership now.

The result of me changing my perspective and no longer expecting my husband to change, was what actually allowed my husband to change.  Once I changed my thoughts it was so much easier to see that me believing that I was alone, misunderstood and not appreciated created my reality.  When I made the shift and believed new thoughts about my husband, I was able to feel partnership, cherished and most importantly CONNECTED to him!

Why I Typically Don’t Work With Couples

I typically do not work with couples because I know it is possible to make profound positive changes in a marriage when only one person in the relationship changes. However, when I am approached by a couple who are both ‘all in’ to work with a marriage coach, my suggestion is that each spouse do an individual session with me each week.  We can often achieve even greater results in far less time when both spouses want to improve their marriage and work individually with me to do so.

Now, working with both spouses individually is quite different than couples counseling. I need to make it clear that I’m not saying that couples counseling isn’t valuable or that you shouldn’t seek it, but in my experience, it wasn’t able to prevent my husband and I from spending hours and hours focusing on the past, negotiating what we both wanted, and trying to convince the counselor that the other spouse was ‘wrong.’

It seemed like I spent a huge amount of time explaining how he could ‘meet my needs’ and him giving it his very best shot BUT STILL NOT BEING ABLE TO DO IT. I mean, he honestly tried, he gave it his all, but it just did not work.  Do you know why?  Because it’s an IMPOSSIBLE task!

If you tell your spouse, “here are my needs, and you need to meet them,” you are like a dependent child who needs someone else to make you happy. If he, in turn, tells you what he needs you to do to make him happy, you have both put your happiness in each other’s hands, which is not a good place to be. Most people can’t even make themselves happy, never mind someone else!


My marriage changed when I stopped trying to get my husband to “make me happy”–instead, I took responsibility for my own happiness (as well as unhappiness) and we no longer expect each other to do it.  Instead, we meet our own needs first, and then meet in the middle to enjoy our time together.

SO much better!

I Love Him but I’m Not ‘In Love’ With Him?

So you think you’ve fallen out of love with him? There’s a good chance that you have.  Afterall, the initial butterflies and euphoria we feel toward our spouses are rooted in science and have been attributed a powerful hormonal cocktail of oxytocin and dopamine in our brains.  This lasts as we are getting to know each other but fades away as we transition into ‘mature love.’  Mature love is often described using words such as safety, security, belonging, predictability, and stability.  Caretaking and nurturing can be a big part of mature love with respect to careers, family and home. 

So why do you feel like there was a shift from a state of being in love to falling out of love?  Maybe you can’t pinpoint an exact moment in time, but you know that there is a wide gap of distance between you and your husband.  There are things about him that you used to admire or at least tolerate but they now drive you crazy.  What is this phase called and how did you get here? More importantly, is it possible to get back to a state of love?

Yes, it is possible.  Especially when you realize that you didn’t get here because your spouse changed or because you changed.  The only thing that has changed is your thoughts about your spouse.  This is the key–the thoughts you choose to think about your husband can transform your marriage.

Let me demonstrate how powerful one thought can be…rewind to before you got married and pretend you’re actively dating.  You agree to a dinner date with someone you met on-line and in walks a tall, dark-haired man with baby blue eyes.  Your date with Mr. Dreamy goes splendidly and you can’t wait to see him again.

The very next day, you see his photo all over the evening news and realize that authorities are searching for Mr. Dreamy who is a serial killer!  After you get over the shock of having such a close call, you think of him and your skin crawls.  This is very dramatic and not likely to ever happen, but it demonstrates how just a single thought and what we make it mean can cause us to feel completely differently about someone. 

So what thoughts do you have about your husband and are you willing to change them? It is totally possible to see him in a new light and to generate new positive feelings.  This is a practice that can be done by trying to see your husband through a new set of lenses.  By thinking about his actions and behaviors differently and understanding and accepting that they don’t mean anything about you, my clients can decrease resentment and tension in their marriages and find it creates space for closeness and love. What thoughts can you try out?  If this sounds great in theory but you aren’t sure how to apply it in your marriage, go to my ‘Work With Me Page’ and sign up for a free consult call.  I can help you!