01/19/2012 05:05 pm ET Updated Mar 20, 2012

Create Multiple Explanations

I think of love as a beautiful backyard garden -- homey, friendly, natural, surprising, beautiful, sweet, peaceful... and laced with mines that will blow me to smithereens.

Risk goes with romance. Danger with delight. Pain with passion. If I am open enough to love and be loved, then I am open to be hurt.

Seven months into my separation, as I sought reconciliation with my former partner, I often hit a landmine. I would step forward seeking peace and understanding and somehow end up igniting high explosives.

At the time, I talked to my psychotherapist Kevin McGrattan about it. He gave me some good advice: "Construct multiple explanations as a way of making a journey."

In other words, generate lots of ways of seeing and thinking about the same thing. Instead of getting stuck on one particular explanation, create a number of them.

Take this hypothetical situation. I disagree with my former partner. I experience her anger. I justify my actions. She grows even angrier. I become angry myself. At this point, I can continue the fight -- or I can stop myself, ask some questions, and try to generate some explanations. For instance, her anger may come from many sources -- including but not limited to the issue at hand. She (or I) may be sad or angry about something else. Or this issue may be particularly important to her (or me) for reasons I do not understand. Or she (or I) could be tired. Or she (or I) could be having a terrible day or week.

Once I start thinking this way, I naturally think of questions to ask. I get out of defensive mode. I get creative. And suddenly, I am understanding rather than fighting.

Of course, I can't do this often when I am angry. Then, it's about all I can manage to just remember that I have other options besides continuing the argument. I can call time out, ask to continue the conversation another time, and get myself some space to calm down and better understand.

Multiple explanations. I like them. Nice concept, Kevin.

Talk to Friends

Friends help me identify and accept my feelings. I talk. They listen. I learn.

During the panicky, crisis days of my separation, my friends offered invaluable support.

First, they gave me love and acceptance -- things that I always need, but particularly appreciate when I'm feeling vulnerable.

Second, they listened. And I gained insights about myself as I tried to put what I felt into words.

And third, once I expressed myself, my friends responded without judgment or knee-jerk advice, and their responses helped me clarify my feelings and thoughts.

Some friends offered unsolicited and inappropriate advice. When that happened, I felt angry. So I developed a strategy to cope. I would make a decision -- either stop talking to them about such deep issues, or tell them that I'd really like them just to listen.

The keys for me are trust and respect. My feelings are private and I only want to tell them to someone who will honor them. Those people who honor my feelings are often the same people who respond to my problems with a perceptive question or an observation that will add to my understanding. The challenge, of course, is to find people whom you trust and respect and who trust and respect you.

Separation sometimes made me feel like I was drowning. Friends were one of the main ways I kept afloat.

This is part of a HuffPost series. I call it "For Men Who Have Everything, Including Separation -- Thoughts on Surviving Separation."

My goals are straightforward:

  • Offer hope and humor to men who are disconsolate after a relationship has hit the rocks
  • Offer a resource to women -- sisters, mothers, friends -- who care about such men

I wrote "For Men Who Have Everything, Including a Broken Heart" because I would have liked a book like this when my first marriage nose-dived.

I offer it in a spirit of brotherhood and with a strong faith that once our broken hearts mend, we have the capacity to be more compassionate, wiser, more resilient and stronger than we were before.

For those interested in reading the earlier posts of this series, links are provided below:

For Men Who Have Everything, Including a Broken Heart, #1

#2 -- Grieving is Healing

#3 -- Beware Precipitous Action

#5 -- Deal with the Real

#6 -- Blame is a Trap

For more by Steven Crandell, click here.

For more on relationships, click here.